Increased digitization and connectivity are changing the way we look at the automobile, more specifically, the city automobile. Car sharing and ride hailing services have greatly changed the need for an automobile in urban environments. So MINI has begun answering some of the questions that may arise out of these new advances in technology with its latest concept, the MINI Vision NEXT 100.
Debuting along with Rolls Royce’s similarly name concept, the MINI Vision NEXT 100 is a concept that can change the way we look at urban mobility. This new concept has a strong emphasis on car sharing, with the motto of “Every MINI is my MINI”. The idea is to allow drivers in urban city centers to hail a MINI perfectly tailored to their preferences, wherever they are and at any time. Once inside, the MINI will actually adapt itself to the driver’s individual tastes and preferences.
According to Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design, Adrian van Hooydonk, “MINI looks to offer smart and bespoke mobility in cities that engages all the senses. And in the future, you might not actually have to own a vehicle to enjoy the benefits.”
“Digitally Mine” — Where Every MINI Becomes My MINI
The largest challenge for the MINI design team was to develop a car that could actually adapt to the tastes and preferences for many different users. So what they did was create a sort of “blank canvas” design, where the MINI Vision NEXT 100 is wrapped in a sort of silver skin that can change colors and designs, depending on the driver’s preferences. Different projections will display welcoming lights onto the ground and side of the car when a new driver approaches. Even the digital graphics and screens will change on the interior to suit the driver’s tastes.
In the demonstration, a man walks out of a building and up to this blank canvas MINI only to have it display some logos on the side of the car and project “Hi, Alex” onto the ground in front of him. The colors on the inside change as the steering wheel and pedals slide over to the right side if the car, as that’s his preference. When he leaves the car, a woman approaches and the MINI gives a similar greeting, except a waving hand is projected as it says “Hello, Kate!”. So the MINI Vision NEXT 100 is able to be technically the same car for each person sharing it, but a different MINI that changes based on the driver. Every MINI is their MINI.
The Cooperizer — A Link Between the Driver and Digital Intelligence
On the inside of this MINI Concept is a centrally-positioned circular instrument, similar to the center screen on current MINIs, called the “Cooperizer”. It changes color like a kaleidoscope, as the multi-faceted digital intelligence selects different personality, entertainment, communications and autonomous settings for the driver. If the driver wants, they can change the Cooperizer’s settings and decision-making as its rotary controller allows for changes in ambiance and driving modes. So whether driving themselves or allowing the car to drive autonomously, the driver can adjust the car’s settings and personality.
Another trick up the Cooperizer’s sleeve is its “Inspire Me” button which, when pressed, downloads digital information from the driver’s smart phone or other smart devices. It then uses this information to suggest new destinations or activities. For instance, in the demonstration, the man presses the Inspire Me button and the car suggests an art gallery, based on his interests learned from his smart devices. If you’re the kind of driver that likes spirited driving, the Cooperizer could suggest a longer, more scenic route to your destination that adds some twisty roads to the trip.
Urban Go-Kart — The Hallmark Driving Fun of a MINI Remains
While certain autonomous, digital and connected technologies are impressive, the most desirable aspect of a MINI is how it drives. MINI agrees with this and wants to keep the fun-to-drive aspect not only alive but front and center. If you’re the kind of driver that actually wants to drive, the MINI Vision NEXT 100 will not only allow you to, but it will help you as well. The uncluttered dash and cockpit give the driver an incredibly view outward and the glass front end gives the driver an easy view of the actual road ahead. Augmented reality displays will show the navigation route and even driving lines on the windscreen if so desired, giving the driver a heightened sensation of driving. Almost like a video game.
Another familial aspect of MINIs is their size. While many fans of the famous British brand have complained in recent years over their growth in size, this new MINI Vision NEXT 100 is actually closer in size to the original MINI of 1959 than it is to modern cars. The electric powertrain allows for this new MINI concept to be incredibly compact while maximizing interior space and increasing safety through more advance crash zones. All of that is possible by removing the very large conventional internal combustion powertrains of today.
Autonomous driving will also be prominent in this new MINI concept. Whether it be allowing the passengers to work on other aspects of their busy lives or driving to charging stations completely on its own. The MINI Vision NEXT 100 is capable of driving with or without passengers in the car. If passengers want to let the car drive itself, the front passengers simply slide the steering wheel into its center position and it becomes an autonomous car. If one of the front passengers wants to take control, they simply slide the steering wheel, which is followed by the pedals, to their side of the car. While driving in a spirited fashion, active aspects of the front seats can also grip onto front passengers tighter if needed.
Inside of the MINI Vision NEXT 100, engineers needed materials that were not only environmentally friendly, but also sturdy enough to hold up over long periods of shared driving by many different passengers. MINI engineers have used materials that typically are not found in automobiles but are study enough to stand the test of time. These materials are also recyclable, allowing for environmentally conscious manufacturing. Materials like brass, basalt and cellulose, things not seen in current cars, have been used in this MINI concept. For instance, the sliding mount for the steering wheel and the Cooperizer housing are made from brass and the storage net behind the steering wheel is made from basalt. Cellulose was used for the lower section of the seats. The seat covers are also knitted alcantara, so as to feel luxurious but also be very durable.
The wheels have also been designed to give a sort of “Ombro Cinema” effect in which the outer surface of the wheel doesn’t move and only a disc behind it turning with the tire. This is to give each wheels a sort of “mechanical jewelry” effect.
Experience sharing – The User Becomes Part of a MINI Community
MINI’s goal is to provide a car sharing experience like no other, one that incorporates the MINI mindset into each and every drive. For example, a MINI user in the future is interested in a certain type of art and a friend gets hold of some last-minute tickets to a preview for an exhibition they might like. The Vision Vehicle identifies what’s involved, and coordinates and organises the whole excursion. The drive itself becomes part of a perfectly arranged service. MINI calls this vision of the future experience sharing.
According to Anders Warming, Head of MINI Design “The MINI VISION NEXT 100 shows how MINI’s unique take on the world could look in the future. The driving experience remains the emotional centrepiece, with effortless and seamless services grouped around it.”
The digital and connected future is coming, whether we like it or not. Many enthusiasts are afraid of such a future. But rest assured that MINI is doing its best to make this future a bright one, one where the MINI brand is as strong and proud as ever. Except in the future, it will be for everyone.