When the cars of tomorrow can also become art galleries

·3-min read
The "Digital Art" mode can be used to project graphics, ambient lighting and sound within the vehicle.

The automotive industry is constantly reinventing itself to encourage drivers to buy new cars. And now, BMW is betting on art to do just that. The German car manufacturer is proposing to transform the interior of its vehicles into veritable art galleries.

Some see them as connected, while others envisage autonomous driving or even environmentally friendly qualities. But while we don't know yet what the cars of the future will look like, BMW seems keen on giving art an important role to play. The automaker has partnered with Cao Fei to display one of her creations, "Quantum Garden," inside its new electric vehicle, the BMW iX M60.

The Chinese visual artist describes the installation as "a poetic collection of universes, countless atoms, nebulae, and thousands of fast-moving beams of light from the depths of the universe, and those trailing strings of galaxies, growing larger and smaller, intersecting and extending, combining and separating, perceiving and listening to each other, around a myriad of constantly rotating centers."

Recently unveiled at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, this digital artwork illustrates the possibilities of BMW's "Digital Art" mode. This feature, integrated into the dashboard, allows graphics, ambient lighting and sound to be projected in the vehicle. "For the very first time, we are making digital art an integral part of the modern driving experience in a car and use innovative technology to transform mobility into an individual, highly exclusive and emotional experience," said Christoph Grote, senior vice president of BMW Digital Car.

The "Digital Art" mode will be available for all BMW series vehicles during 2022. While it will be directly integrated into some of the German automaker's models, it can also be installed later by the driver.

When driving becomes an artistic experience

While the initiative may sound surprising, BMW has a long history of collaborating with visual artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons to turn its vehicles into artworks on wheels. It went a step further in 2017 by asking Cao Fei to turn its M6 GT3 into a mobile artwork. "During this time, I employed augmented reality to create the 18th BMW Art Car, a car with an aura of its own, enhanced by new technologies," says the Beijing-based artist.

BMW isn't just betting on art to make its mark in the automotive industry. In May, the automaker commissioned the renowned film composer Hans Zimmer to create a unique sound signature for its upcoming electric models. And it's not the only automaker looking to music to shape the car of the future . Porsche has been working for years with the German composer Boris Salchow to develop Soundtrack My Life, a new feature described as "the first adaptive sound function." It is based on ambient music samples, which change according to the driving style of the person behind the wheel.

For its part, Bentley has partnered with the LifeScore startup to create a soundtrack that adapts to driving conditions. Tracks are recorded by musicians in London's Abbey Road Studios, before being assembled in a novel way by an artificial intelligence system.

Caroline Drzewinski

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