Mini’s vision of the future is shockingly refreshing

Remember the 2016 BMW Vision Next 100 Concept that Bimmer designed to help celebrate its 100th anniversary and show what BMWs will look like in the next 100 years? Well, Mini has jumped on the “Vision Next 100” wagon and announced a futuristic and wild looking concept that shares its vision for the future with things like an overly simple cabin, digital intelligence, and an odd-looking design that, while looking futuristic, also still has some styling cues of the traditional Mini. Furthermore, the concept encompasses something Mini calls “experience sharing,” where you won’t necessarily have to own a Mini to enjoy one.

According to Mini, the core philosophy behind this concept is “the thoughtful use of the planet’s resources in providing personal mobility.” Apparently, Mini believes that – in the future – anybody will be able to call on a Mini that is tailored to their personal style. The Mini of the future will be fully autonomous, available 24/7, and the built-in digital intelligence will allow the car to adapt itself to the “driver’s” personal interests and preferences. Adrian van Hooydonk, the Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design, said, “Mini looks to offer smart and bespoke mobility in cities that engages all the senses. And in the future, you might not actually have to own a vehicle to enjoy the benefits.”

So in the future, you’ll be able to command you household computer to order you the nearest Mini and, while it is on its way, it will adapt itself to any theme of your choosing – maybe the same theme used by a famous actor or writer, or one derived from your best friend’s Facebook news feed. It’s an interesting idea, so let’s take a few minutes to check out Mini’s new concept in detail.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mini Vision Next 100.

Exterior

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2016 Mini Vision Next 100 High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Mini Vision Next 100 High Resolution Exterior
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I normally find myself criticizing brands like Mini because of their inability to go with anything close to resembling a new design language, but the fact that I can look at this concept and know it is a Mini is actually amazing and entertaining at the same time. There are subtle cues everywhere that point to current Mini design styling, like the circular LED headlights up front, or the design and shape of the rear quarters. Furthermore, the car has a roof that screams Mini Cooper with a small overhang in the front and rear. On the other hand, the car has a large glass windshield that extends from the roof downward, where it eventually meets the front glass panel that houses the LED headlights. Unless we come up with a way to avoid committing bug genocide every time we drive, Mini’s maintenance folks of the future will be using a lot of glass cleaner; that’s for sure.

The concept is obviously designed to be all-electric, as there are no exhaust pipes to speak of or room for the standard internal combustion engine as we know it.

On the sides, the Mini Vision Next 100 has extremely flared wheel arches and side view cameras instead of mirrors. The doors sit smoothly flush with the rest of the body and appear to slide toward the ends of the vehicle, or can be opened up in a more traditional manner when not parked in a confined space. According to Mini, the doors automatically open themselves as much as possible in confined spaces – a feature that will prevent door dings in overpopulated cities with tight parking spots. Part of the overall personalization of the vehicle involves changing graphics on the doors that are clearly displayed as part of a given theme. The wheels are of an interesting design and are pretty much the opposite of “spinner” wheels that were once popular. The outside plate of the wheels remain stationary while the car is driven, while a brass-colored plate inside actually spins, creating an interesting look as the car drives down the road.

Around back, the concept is actually rather bland. There is a large rear windscreen, but it’s nowhere near as large or extended as the front screen. A bright red LED light strip runs the full width of the rear to function as taillights and brake lights. Down below, it becomes clear that most of the body shell is one piece as the fascia and rear quarters are completely seamless. The muscular rear quarters or dominate on the sides while the center of the rear end is recessed a bit. The concept is obviously designed to be all-electric, as there are no exhaust pipes to speak of or room for the standard internal combustion engine as we know it.

All told, Mini says that the exterior finish is actually a discreet, silver skin that designers refer to as a “blank canvas.” As I mentioned about the door earlier, the exterior canvas will change according to the individual user, their mood, and the situations they encounter. The roof coloration will even change, creating what Mini considers to be “personalized experience.”

Interior

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On the inside, there is actually a lot to talk about considering it is truly a simplified interior. Inside the concept, unlike some of the other recent futuristic concepts, has a steering wheel and a couple pedals. In the Mini Vision Next 100, the wheel and pedals can slide from one side to the other and can be used to drive the vehicle, should the “driver” wish to do so. The dashboard is really nothing more than a golden screen that is supported by a large golden frame that is connected to the front strut towers. Ahead of the steering wheel is a large circular screen that is a futuristic representation of Mini’s current instrument cluster. It is also the focal centerpiece for the digital intelligence system that will make Mini stand out among the other manufacturers. Further forward, you’ll find a thin display screen that will likely display information about current location, audio, or even a photo gallery for passengers to enjoy.

Mini is calling this the “Cooperizer” and it is what will form the bond between the driver and the car.

Mini hasn’t provided any detailed images of the interior in the rear, but in one of the sketches included with the press release, it looks like the rear is extremely simple with nothing more than a bench seat, and perhaps some technology, but I’m only speculating on the latter. All told, the major important part of the interior is the aforementioned circular display ahead of the steering wheel. Mini is calling this the “Cooperizer” and it is what will form the bond between the driver and the car. A rotary control can be used to alter the car’s overall ambiance and the driving mode. The system will also check user data and select information of interest to inspire the driver and passengers. It can even recommend challenging driving routes and switch the car into John Cooper Works performance mode.

Drivetrain

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Mini has said surprisingly little about the Vision Next 100’s drivetrain or how it is propelled. Based on the current images, I would have to say that the concept isn’t exactly functional at this time. Logic dictates that the car will be all electric, as Mini has mentioned that its autonomous capabilities will allow it to take off when not in use and locate its own charging station. Based on the overall design, I would have to suggest that the concept is rear-wheel drive, as there is definitely no room up front for an electric motor. Furthermore, the battery pack would also have to be stored in the rear – or, maybe the whole body shell is a battery pack. That would be an interesting idea, right?

All told, the car will be autonomous with the capability of being driven in manual mode. Considering Mini has mentioned the car switching into John Cooper Works performance mode, I would expect the Mini of the future to have a pretty powerful electric motor and battery storage large enough to bring a range of at least several hundred miles.

Conclusion

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When I first heard that Mini was announcing a Vision Next 100 concept, I was afraid I was going to open up some images and see today’s Mini Cooper with some funky paint finish and a wild, futuristic cabin. While the concept is pretty wild, it actually has just the right amount of current Mini DNA. Apparently, the engineers over at Mini do have imagination and, based on what they did with this concept, I think the powers that be over at Mini need to let them express their talent and bring some new design to the current Mini lineup. I don’t want to wait 100 years to start seeing a generation of Minis that don’t look like the previous generation. I like the idea of ride sharing and on-the-fly personalization, but I don’t think it is realistic in the world as it is now. Sadly, I don’t think 100 years will make that any different. People don’t respect their own vehicles that they have paid for, so there’s no guarantee that people would respect a fleet of shared Mini’s either. It’s a good thought, but not one I think the world is ready for.

  • Leave it
    • Ride sharing is a little far fetched
    • Limited passenger capacity

Press Release

Today’s MINI is the perfect premium compact car for the modern city. Digitalisation and connectivity are increasingly changing the way we get around on a daily basis – and this change is taking place most rapidly and noticeably in urban areas. The MINI VISION NEXT 100 is MINI’s answer to several key questions on urban mobility over the years ahead. In the cities of the future, will there be space for a car which engages at an emotional level? What will become of the “clever use of space” principle that underpins MINI? And how can MINI respond to a world becoming ever more digitalised and interconnected?

2016 Mini Vision Next 100 High Resolution Exterior
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The core philosophy behind the MINI VISION NEXT 100 is the thoughtful use of the planet’s resources in providing personal mobility. The motto “Every MINI is my MINI” describes a particular take on car-sharing. In the future, fans of the brand will be able to call on a MINI tailored to their personal requirements where ever they are, day or night. The MINI of the future will be available 24/7, able to pick its driver up from their desired location in a fully automated way and will adapt itself to the driver’s individual tastes, interests and preferences. At the heart of this concept is fully connected digital intelligence.

Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design, describes MINI’s vision for the future: “MINI looks to offer smart and bespoke mobility in cities that engages all the senses. And in the future, you might not actually have to own a vehicle to enjoy the benefits.”

Clever approaches to future mobility with MINI:

“Digitally Mine” – where every MINI becomes my MINI
The “Cooperizer”: a link between the driver and digital intelligence
“Urban go-kart”: small, clever, nimble. The hallmark driving fun of a MINI will remain intact in the years ahead
Novel use of sustainable materials in the interior
Experience sharing – users become part of a MINI community

“Digitally mine” – where every MINI becomes my MINI.

In the future, as now, people will be attracted in great numbers to MINI cars and the attitude to life associated with them. But it may not actually be necessary to own a MINI to be part of the action. The design team’s challenge: how could a MINI be widely and instantly adaptable – making the driver feel it is their car, tailored precisely to their own taste – available whenever and wherever they need it?

The MINI VISION NEXT 100 is wrapped in a discreet, silver skin. The MINI designers refer to it as a “blank canvas”. How that canvas is used varies according to the individual user, their mood and the situations they encounter. Even the colour of the roof and the lighting mood in the interior respond in kind. The MINI uses projections adapted to the driver in terms of colour, graphics and content to create a personalised experience and customised package of on-board information.

2016 Mini Vision Next 100 High Resolution Exterior
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The Cooperizer forms a connection between the driver and digital intelligence.

The Cooperizer is the name the MINI VISION NEXT 100 gives to the centrally-positioned circular instrument that has become such a signature feature of MINI cockpits. In the MINI VISION NEXT 100 it illuminates like a kaleidoscope. The colours and patterns it generates symbolise the car’s multi-faceted digital intelligence, which allows it to select a personalised setting for each driver, encompassing entertainment, communications and autonomous-driving options. On the move, the driver can influence the Cooperizer’s decision-making, as the rotary controls allow adjustments to the interior ambience and driving mode. So the car can be adapted to give a perfectly personalised driving experience, whether driven conventionally or autonomously. Pressing the “Inspire Me” button brings another special Cooperizer trick into play. Here, the MINI checks downloaded user data to select information of interest to the driver and provide them with potential sources of inspiration. For example, the MINI VISION NEXT 100 might suggest the MINI set-up configured for an artist the driver admires and whose exhibition they have recently visited. Or it could recommend a challenging, twisting route to the outskirts of town and switch to John Cooper Works performance mode.

The urban go-kart – small, clever, nimble. MINI will continue to offer the driving fun we know and love in the future.

In the future, driving in a MINI must still be fun, to the extent that drivers will prefer to drive themselves – as often as possible. The mechanical experience of speed and the feeling of nipping swiftly through twists and turns are part of what makes a MINI a MINI. But it doesn’t stop there. In a future world of self-driving cars, this side of motoring may have an even more significant, even more special role. Various aspects of the MINI VISION NEXT 100 will take the go-kart feeling to another new level. Cleared of many controls and screens, the interior has a pure, uncluttered look. And the glass front end opens up a dynamic view of the road. Here, augmented reality displays show the route or ideal driving line, heightening the driving sensation.

In addition to these dynamic elements, dreaming up clever details and creating maximum interior space within the smallest possible footprint are other MINI essentials. The efficiently-packaged, zero-emission drive system and the reduced need for crash zones in the future enable a compactness of body not so far removed from the first MINI back in 1959. The generous feeling of cabin space is enhanced by a full-width bench seat and pedals that slide with the steering wheel to adjust their position. The steering wheel is always there, but the option remains, to ask the car to drive itself; perhaps there are things you’d rather do during a journey when the driving environment is tedious.

Autonomous driving plays an important role in the MINI VISION NEXT 100, allowing it to travel occupant-free to a charging station, cleaning service, parking space or the next user. To switch from driving themselves to autonomous driving, the driver simply moves the steering wheel into the central area between themselves and the front passenger. In the process, those on board enjoy greater freedom of movement and getting in and out of the car in busy city centres is that much easier. The single-section bench seat and a full-width footwell, uninterrupted by a centre console, also help this, allowing passengers to gain rapid access from both sides of the car – without having to decide in advance where they would prefer to sit. When dynamic driving is the order of the day, active elements within the seat provide lateral support for the driver and front passenger. Park the car in a tight spot, and the doors automatically open as wide as possible within the restricted confines.

2016 Mini Vision Next 100 High Resolution Exterior
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Innovative use of sustainable materials.

Making responsible use of resources is key in the selection of materials for the MINI VISION NEXT 100. These materials should retain their high level of perceived quality over many years, age stylishly and offer a special tactile experience. As digitisation increases, analogue qualities and experiences will become more important. With the more intensive use of a shared car, interiors will need to be much more hard wearing. In addition to the modern materials made from recycled plastic and aluminium in the floor area, roof lining and side panel trim, for example, the MINI interior designers used materials less commonly found in car cabins, such as brass, basalt and cellulose. The wraparound carrier and information strip, with its mount for the sliding steering wheel, and the Cooperizer with its thin brass structure are good examples here.

The designers made the storage net behind the steering wheel from lightweight basalt, while the lower section of the seat is trimmed in a recycled cellulose material similar to paper. This novel use of materials included deliberately allowing a patina to develop through use and ensuring they retain along-lasting and sophisticated appearance. When it comes to the natural look and feel of surfaces, the designers have embraced the irregularities inherent in the chosen materials and processing methods. That also applies to the seat covers in knitted Alcantara – a robust, somewhat iridescent material. The designers have steered clear of traditional interior materials like wood and leather altogether. Another example of analogue design in the MINI Vision Vehicle can be found in the wheels, whose rotation generates an “Ombro Cinema” effect: This involves the outer surface of the wheel not moving and only a disc behind it turning with the tyre. The even movement of a shimmering graphic – again brass-coloured – can be observed through openings in the outside of the wheel. The idea is for each wheel to look like a piece of a mechanical jewellery.

Experience sharing – the user becomes part of a MINI community.

Sharing cars, homes and goods is ever-more common, as digitalisation, connectivity and artificial intelligence make processes simpler and more automated. The MINI VISION NEXT 100 can bring together a community of likeminded people, with a shared MINI lifestyle in common. Everybody benefits from everybody. And mobility opens up inspirational experiences yet stands by its sustainable approach and prudent use of resources.

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For example, a MINI user in the future is interested in a certain type of art and a friend gets hold of some last-minute tickets to a preview for an exhibition they might like. The Vision Vehicle identifies what’s involved, and coordinates and organises the whole excursion. The drive itself becomes part of a perfectly arranged service. MINI calls this vision of the future experience sharing.

Head of MINI Design Anders Warming sums up the most important aspects of the car: “The MINI VISION NEXT 100 shows how MINI’s unique take on the world could look in the future. The driving experience remains the emotional centrepiece, with effortless and seamless services grouped around it.”

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