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Published Date: 3/23/2016

BMW concept tech used in real life

Concept cars are considerably more important than you might immediately think. Although many seem like unrealistic prospects as production cars, it's often the components that are key rather than the whole, as concepts feature technologies that filter to future models.

An innovative infotainment system, the first iDrive system laid the foundations of the current BMW systems. The Intuitive Interaction Concept was first fitted to the Z9 concept, which debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1999, and was based on a Microsoft Windows software base. It took only two years for iDrive to make it to production reality, when it was fitted to the E65 7 series. The software itself is used to control many of the car’s systems in one place, and is controlled by a control knob connected to the LCD display inset in the dashboard.

BMW concept tech used in real life

As drivers have learnt to use systems throughout the years, the iDrive unit has evolved and added more features to make the cabin less cluttered and make sure that all of the controls are in one place. With voice control and mobile phone connectivity, you can save phone numbers, search for radio stations and call people without touching any of the buttons also, making it safer to use the many features on the car. As it is such a revolutionary and well-designed system, versions of it are used across the BMW family, including Rolls-Royce and MINI.

While iDrive is an important feature of current BMWs, an entire branch of BMW has been founded on one concept model. The Vision Efficient Dynamics Concept was very much a look into the future at the 2009 German International Motor Show in Frankfurt, and not just on the outside. It not only made it into production almost unchanged as the i8 but the ideas underpinning it formed the basis of the BMW i brand. With a three-cylinder turbodiesel engine connected to a plug-in hybrid unit, the Vision EfficientDynamics could get from 0-62 in 4.8 seconds, with a top speed of 160mph.

The composite construction of the concept and the hybrid powertrain, posting 134.5mpg, heralded the more mainstream BMW i3 and ushered in the era of BMW's hybrid model range. Further developments, using the lightweight components of the original 2009 concept, may also allow for production hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The i8 itself has also been used as a concept test for production features. In 2011, the i8 was shown using laser headlights. These aren't as concerning as you might think - after all, lasers are not something you should be looking at - as a blue laser merely energises a beam unit of phosphorus which then emits a pure white light. The light cast by these units is in a very narrow beam which can brighten objects more than half a kilometre away! Laser headlights have already started to appear, from 2015, on the production BMW 7 Series.

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