The future is a tricky place. That's something Arthur C. Clarke knew better than most, even half a century ago. Clarke's famous 1964 prediction of the future (a portion of which is used here as narration for BMW's ad; you can see a segment of the original below) frame it as such, summing it up by saying, "The only thing that we can be sure of the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic."
Of course, Clarke immediately follows that iconic line with, "So, if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I will have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen."
This is the vehicle of thought BMW is using to launch its 2015 i8 to the world through its new commercial, set to air throughout the 2014 Winter Olympics.
But is the i8 truly unreasonable, "absolutely unbelievable"? Or is it something rather more expected--perhaps even something already well within the scope of a person's range of experience?
In some ways, the BMW i8 surely portends the near-term future of the automobile, from its carbon fiber-laden construction to its hybrid combustion-electric powertrain. But while BMW's combination of performance and efficiency is unusual, it's really just an iteration on technologies we've had with us for years in vehicles like the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight, and, more recently, the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf.
In fact, if anything, the BMW i8 is a car of the recent past, only now leveraging and combining those technologies into a more complex (and expensive) whole, as cutting edge as it is. It certainly fails to be unbelievable, and by that metric, it fails Clarke's futurist test for visualization of the way the future really will be.
At the very least, BMW's i8 is a much less accurate prediction of the car of 2064 than Clarke's vision of today viewed from 1964. It's an admirable effort, and an ambitious attempt, but ultimately, the commercial dies by its own sword.