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Car Of The Future: BMW ConnectedDrive Practically Drives Itself


In part one of this in-depth peek at ConnectedDrive, we took a look at some of the apps, infotainment upgrades and cabin luxuries that BMW is developing under the technology-centered initiative.

Today our focus is on technologies that increase your safety and driving efficiency on the road.

If you think about the cars of years past, they were entirely passive, requiring the driver to start the ignition, shift the gears, steer manually, brake, etc.

With things like power steering, navigation systems, and parking assist systems, cars have become more active and taken over some of the roles formerly left to drivers.

With ConnectedDrive, BMW envisions a car that is a whole lot more active, scanning and analyzing the road ahead to deliver the best information to the driver.

We saw a glimpse of this technology on the Vision ConnectedDrive concept that BMW launched at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show back in March. The car featured a three-dimensional display that could superimpose digital images over the actual view of the road to help the driver identify important visuals in the environment. BMW is calling this "contact analogue displays."

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

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Examples of contact analogue displays include showing a virtual turn sign within the driver's line of vision to prompt him to turn or change lanes, and displaying an evasive maneuver necessary to avoid crash.

"Proactive connectivity" is a concept that uses historical traffic pattern data and car-to-car communications information to predict what's going on about two minutes in front of your car. The information is run through an algorithm that crunches numbers 100 times per second to predict traffic patterns. It then delivers real-time information to help the driver proceed safely and efficiently. An example cited by BMW has the car suggesting a speed that you should keep in order to make it through an upcoming traffic light.

"Intelligent route planning" is similar to proactive connectivity, but in more of a macro way. The system analyzes traffic patterns, speeds, fuel level, and other information in getting you from your start to your destination.

The technology is designed to ensure that you get there on time, and would be tied into your computer and smartphone, so that BMW could send you a notification if you have to leave early based on excessive traffic or other extenuating circumstances.

Once you're in the car, the technology works with the navigation system to optimize your commute. The system will also be able to make parking suggestions.

BMW laser headlights

BMW laser headlights

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BMW is already looking beyond the just-gaining-ubiquity LED headlamps and working on laser headlights, which it says will shine brighter and stronger and throw farther.

Helping those laser torches at night, the Dynamic Light Spot uses a sensor system to identify cars, pedestrians and hazards on the road ahead, then shines a spot light on them to illuminate them.

One day, we're going to be able to nap while our cars do all the driving (better than we could ever have done), tuck us in, play relaxing music and massage us with vibrating seats.

To read the first part of this two-part article, click here.
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