BMW Motorrad didn’t stop innovating with the bike itself. The Vision Next 100 concept is an incomplete technological marvel without intelligent (and “fashionable”) riding gear. A full-body suit warms or cools the pilot based on weather conditions, its collar inflates to provide support for the neck, built-in sensors alert the rider when banking angles become too severe, and vibrations in the arms and legs provide navigation directions. Complementing the suit is a transparent visor that offers telemetry, navigation, and performance data across the rider’s field of vision. The goggles track eye movements to position the displayed information appropriately, but the glass can be wiped clear, simply by looking straight ahead, if the rider gets sick of visual interference. Looking up triggers the visor's rearview function.
But where are the helmet and pads?
“Autonomous cars will make it 100 percent sure there isn't an accident," remarked Stephan Schaller, head of BMW Motorrad. “Vehicle-to-vehicle communication will prevent accidents and I think it’s realistic that motorcycle riders won’t need helmets in 100 years.”
It’s a bold statement–one that pretends a bug or pebble flying into your face at 80 mph doesn’t hurt–but the sentiment is reasonable. By the time something like this concept hits the road, most vehicle traffic will be automated, and the remaining cars will be equipped to override controls in the event of a potential collision. The Vision Next 100 concept is also fitted with a Digital Companion that will warn riders when action is needed and take over in an emergency situation.
BMW Vision Next 100 ConceptEnlarge Photo
MINI Vision Next 100 ConceptEnlarge Photo
Rolls Royce Vision Next 100Enlarge Photo
This doesn’t mean BMW plans to build fully self-driving bikes, though. “We don't envision motorcycles to drive autonomously,” stated Harald Krueger, BMW Group CEO. “Riding is about choices, and if you want to be in control, we will let you.”
During the concept’s presentation and subsequent interviews, BMW executives must have restated the bike’s “escape” proposition a hundred times. According to the company’s prophesy, our digital future will be so overwhelming that we’ll crave advanced motorcycles to flee our even more advanced urban centers. Worryingly, it may prove true. “Mechanics will be a luxury in the future,” foretold Heinrich. “Not everyone will be able to interact with machines.”
BMW Motorrad’s inspired two-wheeler is stunning and innovative. Few will argue the contrary. Still, my choice for an escape would be the concept’s ancestor and design influence, a 1923 BMW R32..
--written by Miles Branman