BMW iVision Debuts at CES

What does a connected car really look like?

The beauty of autonomous driving right now is that it’s like a Legos project. Cute to look at, cool enough to distract a toddler (or me) for an hour, and there are no actual expectations. That seems to be the overriding theme of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show tech, ranging from the revolutionary to the vapid.

And, somewhere in between, there’s the new BMW iVision Future Interaction. It builds on the functional (and seriously cool) Airtouch gesture control system, which is standard in the new 7-Series. Using the i8 Spyder Concept as a showcase vehicle, BMW offered us a virtual demonstration of iVision’s marvelously diverting suite of capabilities. They seem to solve all of mankind’s problems in one quick jog to a business lunch.

Disaster in the road ahead? iVision lets you know and recalibrates the nav. Inbox filling up? Talk to the car and clear it up, dictating responses and dismissing junk with the wave of a hand. Once you get to the restaurant, iVision will drop you off and orbit the neighborhood, driverlessly until you’ve closed the deal and summon it with your SmartWatch (not included).

iVision endeavors to connect your personal data with all the physical devices, apps and services you use every day. It integrates open mobility clouds. BMW says it makes life safer, too. Example: When an incoming call chimes in, iVision announces the caller, then let’s you elect for a video call, pivoting the i8 into autonomous mode.

Still, the pitfall of car connectivity is distraction; fiddling with technology while operating a vehicle has become dangerously common. But our iVision demonstration at CES was seamless, effortless. Linking up to the cloud and bringing all this technology to the dashboard only works if it makes your life—and the lives of other drivers and pedestrians—safer as well as more entertaining.

This is the smart refrigerator of cars. When fully realized, iVision will heat your car, cool it down, take into account your surroundings and your destination. If you Googled something the night before and are about to pass it on your route, iVision will proactively let you know.

It’s the future—eventually. For now, let’s just have fun with it.