CES 2022: BMW captures driver emotions through new technologies

06 January 2022

German carmaker BMW has unveiled a new electrified performance model and several eye-catching new technologies aimed at personalising the vehicle-ownership experience.

As many carmakers focus on the future of mobility in a way that challenges traditional ownership models, through autonomous technologies or by considering the metaverse, BMW is choosing a different path. Its technology announcements are aimed at allowing the driver to customise their car and express their mood, having it reflect their personality and emotions. This individualisation would make the car an extension of their world, rather than just a tool.

The company’s plans include improving the sound made by battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and providing new graphical backgrounds on displays, alongside an in-car theatre screen, and even new technology that allows drivers to change the exterior colour of their car.

The company was planning to present its roadmap for the future at CES 2022, but due to the increase in COVID-19 cases around the world, it instead held a livestream from its Munich headquarters.

Colour palette

Source: BMW

The most eye-catching part of BMW’s presentation was the announcement of its iX Flow concept, which allows a driver to change the colour of their car, or include a pattern on the exterior, in moments.

Using a specially-developed body wrap containing E ink, the carmaker has created a sports-activity vehicle that is able to switch from white to black or create shaded patterns, with ease. When stimulated by electrical signals, the electrophoretic technology brings different colour pigments to the surface, causing the body skin to take on the desired colouration.

‘The innovative E Ink technology opens completely new ways of changing the vehicle’s appearance in line with the driver’s aesthetic preferences, the environmental conditions or even functional requirements,’ BMW stated. ‘The technology thus offers unprecedented potential for personalisation in the area of exterior design.’

‘This technology gives the driver the freedom to express different facets of their personality or even their enjoyment of change outwardly, and to redefine this each time they sit in their car,’ added Stella Clarke, head of project for the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink. ‘Similar to fashion or the status ads on social-media channels, the vehicle then becomes an expression of different moods and circumstances in daily life.’

Sustainability angle

The carmaker also highlighted how a colour-changing car can aid the drive to sustainable motoring, by improving efficiency. This is done by taking into account the different abilities of light and dark colours when it comes to reflecting sunlight and the associated absorption of thermal energy. A white surface reflects a lot more sunlight than a black one. Therefore, heating of the vehicle and passenger compartment because of strong sunlight and high outside temperatures can be reduced by changing the exterior to a light colour. In cooler weather, the dark outer skin will help the vehicle to absorb more warmth from the sun.

In both cases, selective colour changes can help to cut the amount of cooling and heating required. This reduces the amount of energy the vehicle’s electrical system needs and also the vehicle’s fuel or electricity consumption. For a BEV model, it could also help to increase range.

In-car theatre

Source: BMW

BMW also announced additions to its My Modes line-up. The personalisation technology is already available on the current iX model, creating unique moments that result from a combination of vehicle characteristics and interior atmosphere tailored to a particular situation. Drive and steering control, mood lighting and sound, as well as the colour scheme and graphics of the BMW Curved Display, are precisely synchronised.

The carmaker is introducing two new modes, Expressive and Relax, which allow for further customisation. BMW is also collaborating with Chinese multimedia artist Cao Fei, who created the company’s first digital art-car in 2018, to bring art to the driver through the in-car displays, adding to the uniqueness of the driver experience.

As part of its expansion of My Modes, BMW also announced a new in-car entertainment system for future BMW models. My Mode Theatre transforms the rear of the interior into a private cinema lounge with surround sound and 5G connectivity thanks to the BMW Theatre Screen, a panorama display in 32:9 format. In this setting, every journey for rear-seat passengers becomes a cinema experience with a personalised programme of entertainment on a 31-inch ultra-wide display, with a resolution of up to 8K. This smart TV can be controlled by touch operation or using touchpads integrated into the rear doors. BMW announced that it has collaborated with Amazon on the technology, integrating Fire TV to allow users to stream programmes from a number of services through 5G connectivity.

When the BMW Theatre Screen moves out of the headliner, this is accompanied by a sound experience created exclusively for this purpose in cooperation between the BMW Group and the film-music composer and Academy Award winner, Hans Zimmer, which ends at the precise moment the screen reaches its final position.

Performance model

Source: BMW

The headline of BMW’s presentation was the launch of the iX M60 BEV, the carmaker’s first M-branded vehicle powered by batteries. The launch also marked the first time the company has used CES to debut a new vehicle.

The iX M60 is a modern sports-activity vehicle which, the carmaker says, incorporates the best of three worlds, the BMW i, BMW X, and BMW M divisions. The car can accelerate from 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds, with a top speed limited to 155mph.

The aluminium spaceframe and the carbon cage with carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the roof, side and rear sections combine a mix of materials that increases rigidity and optimises weight. To increase its sustainability credentials, the aluminium used is produced using power from solar-energy plants. A high proportion of secondary aluminium and reused plastic also contribute to the resource-efficient production of the BMW iX series, on which the iX M60 is based. Its interior uses FSC-certified wood, leather tanned with olive leaf extracts, and other natural materials. Recycled fishing nets are among the raw materials used for the floor coverings and mats.

Emotive thinking

The company really pushed the message of driver emotion during its presentation, with its My Modes and iX Flow technologies aimed at reflecting the mood of the occupant. BMW is also working with Hans Zimmer to create what it calls ‘new and emotionally-rich soundscapes’ into the brand’s model line-up through its IconicSounds Electric plans.

‘Sound is a fundamental part of the emotional-driving experience in a BMW,’ says Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design. ‘With the unparalleled experience and creativity of Hans Zimmer to count on, we are creating a unique acoustic character to our electric vehicles.’

These sounds, which cover everything from simple menu changes to acceleration of the vehicle, will be different depending on the My Modes selection the driver has made, again expressing their mood. The carmaker stated that thanks to the quiet characteristics of electric driving, it is time to think about sound, and how it can be used in the car to enhance the experience.