The German motorcycle manufacturer's vision involves self-balancing motorcycles with subtle but informative digital displays and helmets which offer said data on its visor. As for tomorrows riding suits, they will warm or cool the user and offer self-inflating neck braces.
All in all, BMW’s future riding experience sounds pretty cool.
BMW Motorrad’s future motorcycle detailed
Calling their vision ‘The Great Escape’, BMW Motorrad feels riders won’t need helmets or safety gear with the motorcycle itself being ‘the perfect synthesis between human and machine’.
"The BMW Motorrad VISION NEXT 100 embodies the BMW Group's vision of biking in a connected world – an analogue experience in a digital age. Motorcycling is about escaping from the everyday: the moment you straddle your bike, you are absolutely free. Your bike is The Great Escape," says Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design at BMW Motorrad, outlining the core principles underlying his brand's Vision Vehicle.
The motorcycle of the future will enjoy a sweeping frame, integrating bearings and joints to give a smooth sculpted appearance. Offering the ergonomics of the popular roadster position, a clever arrangement of surfaces protects the rider from wind and weather as effectively as a full fairing. Built on a ‘flexframe’, this single-piece frame allows the bike to be steered without the various joints found on today's motorcycles. Turning the handlebar adjusts the entire frame, changing the direction of the bike. The amount of strength needed to steer depends on the situation: at standstill, the Flexframe allows a light steering whereas at higher speeds it remains very rigid.
Of course the motorcycle of tomorrow is a zero-emission vehicle, but what hasn’t been seen in these types of predictions is an engine that extends outwards only when the bike sets off, to enhance aerodynamics and protect the rider from the elements.
BMW Motorrad’s vision has the motorcycle connecting to the rider for safety but freeing them to enjoy the riding experience.
‘The unique sensation of freedom is made possible by intelligent connectivity between rider, bike and the outside world – a combination that also allows the prediction of critical situations on the roads,’ BMW Motorrad VISION NEXT 100 states. ‘As well as anticipating what lies ahead and alerting the user when action is needed, they offer active rider protection and will consign the helmets and body protectors of today to the history books.’
Probably the most eye-catching prediction for riders is the suggestion of a self-balancing motorcycle. This future ride will right itself while even stationary, remaining upright when the rider has dismounted. The balancing systems also work out on the road to ensure a particularly agile and dynamic riding experience with even lighter handling, which is not only enticing to newer riders but the more seasoned bikers as well. Balance, and consequently managing the motorcycle are the main reasons given for older riders moving from two to three wheels.
Technology going beyond the motorcycle
While BMW’s vision of riding in future negates wearing a helmet or other safety gear, those who do will enjoy some unique perks.
The roadmap to tomorrow from BMW Motorrad includes helmets which features a pair of data glasses that extends across the wearer's entire field of vision. As well as providing wind protection, it shows relevant data in one of four designated display areas. These are controlled by the rider's eye movements: looking up or down changes the content that appears, and looking straight ahead switches the information off completely, leaving the rider to focus even more fully on biking experience.
Understanding the vision is about the experience and not technology, information is only projected onto the visor on request, or to alert the rider to the fact that action is needed, BMW explains.
"The bike has the full range of connected data from its surroundings and a set of intelligent systems working in the background, so it knows exactly what lies ahead. By collating the data it has gathered, it can suggest ideal lines and banking angles, or warn riders of hazards ahead," Hampf continues.
Like the display in an airplane cockpit, among other things, the information will indicate the current banking angle and ideal lines. If the bike's current position does not match what is suggested, the rider can correct it as necessary. If he or she responds too late or not at all, the bike will correct itself. The Digital Companion's advice not only helps novices to learn more about what they and their bikes can do. It also supports experienced riders by allowing them to challenge themselves and continuously improve their skills.
Looking upwards activates the rear-view function in the visor, allowing the rider to see the road behind. Lowering the eyes to normal levels opens a menu from which the rider can select an option by pointing a finger. Looking further down opens the map view showing the rider's chosen route.
With built-in airbags becoming a common feature on riding suits, motorcycle enthusiasts may wonder what advancements could be made over the next hundred years. BMW’s answer is a suit that warms or cools the user depending on conditions. The diagonal zipper across the chest is actually a flexible, banded structure of the suit and shoes inspired by the muscle areas of the human body and provides body support and relief whenever needed.
Riders who may feel they are enjoying the height of connectivity right now, just wait. At higher speeds, the neck section of the future riding suit inflates to provide extra support for the upper vertebrae and improve overall comfort.
What it won’t have however, safety features.
BMW Motorrad feels the bike's intelligent assistance systems make them superfluous. Instead, sensors in the suit keep track of the wearer's pulse rate and body temperature and provide the right level of heat or cold. The suit also delivers navigation instructions via the vibrating elements in the arms and legs, and alerts the rider when the banking angle is becoming critical.
All the predictions can be summed up with the image of the rider and machine forming a single functional unit ‘to offer a more intense riding experience than ever before’ according to BMW Motorrad.
"The BMW Motorrad VISION NEXT 100 unites the best of both worlds, digital and analogue, for the ultimate emotional experience: The Great Escape," Edgar Heinrich sums up.