BMW electric signals a new era for in-car gadgets

To misquote Magritte, this is not a car. It’s a design sketch from BMW’s Project i – an imagination of what its future battery-powered vehicle might l

To misquote Magritte, this is not a car. It’s a design sketch from BMW’s Project i – an imagination of what its future battery-powered vehicle might look like. But it’s more than a fuzzily futuristic concept, even if the wheels do like they were ripped off an Xbox controller.BMW is building its electric car from the ground up. And that hasn’t been done before. Everyone else opens the bonnet on an existing model in their range, hoicks out the combustion engine, bungs in an electric one about the same size and slams the lid down again. Job done. More or less.And the German company is talking a big game for its battery-powered plans. Which is great, because it’s about time we gadgety folk had a better set of wheels. Even better, it’s an opportunity to create some new in-car gadgets.In-car tech has had a pretty rough ride. We know what’s possible – head-up displays, modular dashboards, intelligent self-drive, light-sensitive automatically tinting windscreens – but we don’t seem to have got much further than hands-free kits and iPod chargers that plug into the ciggie lighter.BMW is stridently approaching the gates of possibility by building the drive system first and creating the car around it. And that should be a clarion call to action for all wannabe in-car gadget makers. How can we improve the gadgeteer’s driving experience?How do you make it easier for people to use their gadgets while driving? And safer? There’s a good reason you can’t remove anything from a modern dashboard without writing the car off, but why not turn the whole thing into an open-source project, capable of being upgraded and customized?Assuming all this happens on Beemer’s new electric, there’s only one problem remaining: there are no door handles. In fact, there aren’t any doors. Although we have a hunch those wheels control the stereo…