If you think your current car is clever with adaptive headlights, rain-sensing wipers and the ability to pick a new navigation route based on traffic ahead, you haven't seen anything yet. BMW has announced details of what it calls its 'Proactive Drive Assistant', designed to make future journeys not only more efficient in terms of fuel use but also time.

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It's a wider part of BMW's Efficient Dynamics strategy and hinges on intelligent energy management. Under this tenet the aim is to avoid unnecessary energy consumption, but also recuperate as much of the vehicle's energy as possible. At a simple entry level this means technology like stop-start systems and brake energy recuperation, but can also extend to much smarter use of modern in-car systems to make every drive as efficient as possible. As a result, the car can actually anticipate driving scenarios in advance and react to these before they're encountered--notably, by clever use of the car's transmission and navigation systems.

Proactive Driving Assistant does incorporate some BMW functions we're already very familiar with. Among these is ECO PRO mode, which can offer tips about driving more economically, as well as navigation options that can direct you around traffic snarl-ups and an Analyzer function to assess your driving after a journey. By using the car's navigation, it can also warn you in advance about road conditions--an impending lower speed limit, or preparing you for a turn off so you can slow in plenty of time. But Proactive Driving Assistant can do even more, using radar and camera sensors to determine local surroundings and engage the appropriate gear for a situation.

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if this sounds like a recipe for unwanted gear changes, there's much more to it than that. Take the average overtaking maneuver: Ordinarily, you might signal to make your maneuver and squeeze the accelerator to summon a lower gear. Proactive Driving Assistant can recognize a potential overtaking move and have that gear waiting for you as soon as you signal to pass, cutting time and enabling quick acceleration the instant you need it. Similarly, the system can offer a downchange on the way to a tighter corner or in a sequence of corners, leaving you in just the right gear to power out again.

BMW is even looking at energy use on levels you don't even think about. Heating and cooling a car's cabin uses a surprising amount of power, of particular concern in the new generation of electric vehicles. Under the Efficient Dynamics banner, engineers are working on a new system to extract heat energy from air that would otherwise leave the cabin as waste and use it to heat air being brought into the cabin through the ventilation system. As with other aspects BMW is working on, the net gain will be small, but rolled into other efficiency improvements, BMW's next generation of cars will make significant strides.


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