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When BMW relaunched MINI back in 2001, the modernized wee car was lauded for recapturing all the best parts of the delightful puckish attitude and styling cues that made the 1959 original an icon. Today the BMW Group is hoping to establish a new expression of the MINI brand, one that takes that minimal footprint, stretching it in every direction into a spacious concept , taking advantage of the space-saving benefits of an all-electric platform.
The experience proposed by the MINI Vision Urbanaut is made possible by the migration toward the skateboard-like platform of an electric drive system; without all previous required trappings of a gas fuel engine, the MINI Design team was able to create an interior experience more like a living room than car cabin. In fact, the team of designers began plans for the MINI Vision Urbanaut’s interior before any exterior detailing was developed, using floor plans, pieces of furniture plus wooden scale models to provide an indication of size, with augmented reality employed to create a digital model across the vehicle’s 4.46 m in length.
Oliver Heilmer, Head of MINI Design describes the MINI Vision Urbanaut as an “[extension] of the user’s private space into the public sphere”, a near-future vehicle with a form that is only “mini” in moniker. Alongside all the expected cutting-edge features one might expect from a future-gazing concept – minimalist and screen and haptic touch-laden interface sans any buttons or switches, recycled material woven textile upholstery, an array of LEDs to change the exterior appearance/colors of the vehicle – MINI Design proposes a novel digital-analogue interface to activate personalized “moments”.
The MINI Token is a literal physical token shaped to store customized comfort and technology settings, an activation “between an analogue object and a digital connection”. Inserted into a table slot, the Token activates preconfigured MINI Moments labeled “Chill”, “Wanderlust” and “Vibe”, alongside a user-customized “My MINI moment”. Set into a configured slot, the Token awakens a bevy of interior effects, ranging from ambient lighting, music preferences, and even fragrances to adjust what the vehicle smells like.
The MINI Vision Urbanaut’s nearly seamless surface and compact rounded edges paired with wheels pushed to the outer corners of the body give the silhouette a tadpole-like silhouette, while also communicating a spaciousness to be revealed within. And that soft matte exterior gradient isn’t just a rendered flourish; “Zero Gravity” is a tri-ombre metallic effect transitioning from green to blue to a subtle toned gray that continues onto the windows as a patterned gradient. The effect is aesthetic, but also replaces a standard tint for a color-tinged barrier, delivering privacy and also blocking out sunlight.
Both front and back of the vehicle are outfitted with milled aluminum covers perforated with an array of multi-color dynamic matrix lights capable of signaling, illuminating the road, and also displaying custom graphics. And to maintain the DNA of the MINI heritage, the Urbanaut’s front features the identifiable round headlights associated with every MINI vehicle.
Envisioning a more polite vision of the future, the Urbanaut is designed to inform other drivers whether the vehicle’s automated driving function is activated; the LED matrix across both the front and rear end exterior surfaces signal when the driver has taken the wheel or in instances when the automated driving function is engaged.
“In 1959, the very first Mini ushered in a small-scale revolution in vehicle construction with its transversely mounted engine. With the MINI Vision Urbanaut we have been able to rethink and increase the usable surface area inside the car even further in relation to its footprint.” – Oliver Heilmer, Head of MINI Design
As is the case of all designs envisioned to prognosticate the future of mobility, the MINI Vision Urbanaut is intended as an expression of the brand’s long term plans, with many of the vehicle’s technologies and design cues sure to inspire future MINI models. The Urbanaut’s spacious interior accompanied alongside the environment-enhancing MINI Moments hint the future of the British automotive brand will open up entirely novel and customizable usage scenarios, each giving driver and occupants the creature comforts of home while on the road.
Learn more about the MINI Vision Urbanaut here.