BMW previewed the iNext, its first fully self-driving car, at its annual general meeting. Shown as a very blue profile shot at the event, the ‘i’ sub-brand car is a collaboration between the carmaker and Intel and Mobileye. The level 3.5 autonomous car will be revealed in concept form later this year and will enter production at the company’s Dingolfing plant in 2021.
Regarding the profile shot, although simplified to hide the finer details, it's clear to see from the long roofline and boxy wheel arches that the car will be an SUV. It has a distinctive glasshouse incorporating a stylised motif of the kidney grille, similar to that of the i Vision Dynamics concept revealed at last year's Frankfurt motor show.
The iNext will be pitched as BMW's tech flagship, so expect cutting-edge innovations in infotainment and interior technology, as well as the brand's latest electric powertrain and well-documented driverless tech.
BMW originally announced in 2016 that it had joined the race to produce fully autonomous cars and has teamed up with tech firms Intel and Mobileye in a bid to offer its first fully self-driving car in 2021. BMW now claims that 'level 3.5' autonomy will be possible from the car.
Although not one of the official five levels of autonomy, 'level 3.5' will bridge the gap between 3 and 4; the former allows part-time fully autonomous driving but requires human intervention in certain circumstances, while level 4 allows completely human-free driving altogether.
Accompanying chairman Harald Krüger confirmed that any autonomous BMW would still exhibit the values and level of entertainment afforded by today's BMWs. The platform that the three companies are developing will be opened to other car manufacturers that wish to build a car with similar values.
The iNext's electric powertrain will give a range of over 500km, although BMW has not released any further details.
As for other upcoming BMW models, the i Vision Dynamics previewed the Tesla Model S-rivalling i5, also due in 2021, while an electric version of the X3, the iX3, is just around the corner. This will face stiff opposition from the Audi E-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQ C.