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BMW CES concept shows how autonomous cars will change luxury as we know it

The i Interaction Ease concept shows off a cockpit from a time after self-driving cars have become mainstream.

BMW i Interaction Ease concept

This is what BMW thinks a luxury cabin will be like decades from now.

BMW
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

If you want a look at how automakers thinking driving (riding?) in a car decades from now will be, look no further than CES 2020. The technology show is chock-full of previews of an autonomous future, scattered with promises that some of these technologies are coming sooner than we think.

The BMW i Interaction Ease concept is one of those designs. It's not a full concept car, but instead a cockpit rigged up to show what BMW thinks luxury vehicles will be like after autonomous cars become mainstream. This isn't meant to show off the first self-driving car interior, but instead one that comes well after the driverless machines become commonplace on city streets.

It's hard to start somewhere with all of the wild features included, but I suppose let's step into the shoes of the rider. When approaching the i Interaction Ease, the concept recognizes them from afar and greets them. A light show then directs them into their seats. Fancy stuff already.

Inside, there are two seats formed together that appear the size of a typical loveseat and boast "smart materials" to make the rider feel as if they're floating in a certain setting. Before setting off -- or at any time -- riders can also play with the smart glass that covers the sides. With a flick, it'll go from transparent to privacy glass to keep out curious eyes. Is this why BMW previously seemed to hint that sex is coming to self-driving cars?

BMW i Interaction Ease concept

Fancy seats for a fancy cabin.

BMW

Back to the topic at hand, straight ahead of the riders is a massive panorama display with augmented reality and three separate modes: Explore, Entertain or Ease. In the first mode, artificial intelligence is able to read human facial gestures and call up information relevant to the situation. Say you portray an inquisitive look when passing a building; the display with add information on the screen detailing relevant information. If it was a movie theater, perhaps the screen adds the movies and their showtimes without riders even speaking a single word.

Entertain mode is pretty much what it sounds like. The display becomes a bit of a home theater and adds ambient lights to watch TV, movies or some other form of entertainment. Ease mode is when it's time to kick back and relax. This is where the seats activate and make riders extra comfy and the cockpit turns turns the side glass opaque. Meanwhile, ambient light kicks in and relaxing sounds play throughout. Sounds like adult nap time to me.

While most of this is pretty far out in the future, some of the new gesture controls likely aren't. BMW describes the ability to point at various portions of the cabin to register them for actions. Gesture controls already exist in some BMW models to control things like the HVAC system.

These technologies are likely the kind coming to production soon, as BMW said we'll see some of the i Interaction Ease's features debut with the iNext crossover SUV slated for 2021. 

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