Anyone looking 20 years into the future is expecting a world in which we are driven to work by a computer, in an autonomous car or even a pod.
Vehicles will talk to infrastructure, everything will be safe and smooth and the inside of our vehicles will be more like a multimedia room at home than the car interiors we have now.
But what if you prefer two wheels to four? Will there be a place for motorbikes, or electric e-bikes? The very idea of an autonomous bike seems fairly ridiculous — after all who wants to ride a bike that drives itself? You might as well be in a pod.
Over the decades we have seen science fiction movies that have a hero riding between pods on a bike, but is that how it will be? Perhaps.
BMW is clearly confident that the motorbike has a long future, even in a world of pods. It has revealed three concept vehicles that it calls its Vision Next 100 models: one for BMW, one for Mini and one for Rolls-Royce. They all look 20 years into the future, but in a Los Angeles airport hangar, BMW Motorrad left one of the most breathtaking visions for last.
The Motorrad Vision Next 100 looks like it belongs on the set of the movie Tron, although as vice-president of design at BMW Group, Adrian van Hooydonk, told us — “with less lights”. It also doesn’t morph into anything.
It is a vision for the future, with design roots in its past, with the design inspired by the bike that started it all for BMW, the R32 back in 1923. Today, of course, BMW is more well known for its cars than its bikes, but it is embarking on a new strategy that group board member Peter Schwarzenbauer says will nearly double the 136 000 bike sales of 2015 to more than 200 000 by 2020.
A big part of that is expected to come from the company’s move into the lucrative sub-500cc market, initially with its G310 R that will come to SA early in 2017. While the G310 R is a sports bike, there will also be other derivatives too, including a GS version. We were given a sneak preview of that model and if you have always wanted a GS but felt it too big, then get excited, because it looks exactly like a smaller GS and will be priced significantly less too.
That small GS does not look like the current GS either, but the new GS which we also had a look at and which is due to be unveiled officially in November. It has sharper looks with more angles to the design, giving it even more of a premium look than the outgoing model. We can’t tell you much else and the people at the door took our cameras away, so you will have to wait a little longer to see it.
There will also be more to come, with BMW Motorrad CEO Stephan Schaller saying that every model type was on the agenda, “even pizza scooters”. However, he stresses that they had to draw a line somewhere and the G310 R is it.
This new strategy sets BMW up for the long run, with the aim that ultimately we will arrive at an era where the Vision Next 100 bike will be available in your showroom. And it will be standing in the showroom on its own. I don’t mean isolated, but actually standing, because while there is a kickstand for when it is parked, it also has clever technology that allows it to self-balance.
This means no more putting your foot down while stopped at the lights, instead the bike will sit patiently upright. The system will also allow the rider to push harder in the corners, assisting in ensuring the bike leans at the optimal angle.
BMW is also claiming that there will be no need for a helmet. Essentially, while the bike will not be autonomous it will have every active safety feature possible that can detect and monitor every situation.
In a world in which transport modes will all communicate with each other, BMW expects the technology to guarantee no crashes and that the bike will be able to protect the rider, negating the need for a crash helmet. It is difficult to see that becoming possible, but it fits with the idea of pure riding.
You will also not see any instruments on the bike. Instead all the information will be transmitted to the rider’s visor, although only when that information needs to be there to keep the view of the road ahead as pure as possible.
The frame is made of carbon-fibre composite and fabric, allowing for a combination of strength and flexibility. Inside that frame, not surprisingly, is an electric motor, but the designers have incorporated that hallmark Boxer engine look to it. The tyres are also clever, able to change their profile to adapt to different road surface conditions.
Finally there is the suit, which looks as though it lacks any proper protection. In terms of today’s riding gear that is correct, but given that the bike should protect you, the suit requires less. Instead the suit has a flexible, bionic structure to it and it can also talk to the rider and the bike through connectivity.
It is all very cool and very clever, but BMW insists the concept is also about ensuring that those who want to enjoy the ride still can. – Mark Smyth