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The luscious off-roading interface in the 2019 BMW X7 is a sight to behold

BMW X7

Photo credit: Joe Miller

BMW is one of those companies that know how to design the exterior of a vehicle, add safety features, and provide lush and comfortable seating. However, in a recent test of the new 2019 BMW X7 at CES 2019, it’s obvious that the interface is the most impressive.

You could argue that how the information presented on the screens inside a car is more important than the design or other features, since we’ll all be driving autonomous cars (ahem) in the next 10-20 years. How we interact with cars will be increasingly important.

BMW set up a track with a huge hill, ramps, and other ways to simulate what it would be like to drive a $73,900 (about £58,000, AU$103,000) sport utility vehicle in an off-road situation. (Would you actually dream of mudding with this vehicle? Probably not, but maybe someone will about 20-30 years from now.)

BMW X7

 Photo credit: Joe Miller 

As we went up the first ramp, the screen changed to show a real-time image of the vehicle tilting at about a 22-degree angle. That’s right around the cut off point where some vehicles might actually start to get tippy, although it depends greatly on your speed, whether there are rocks and tree branches involved, and even the consistency of the dirt.

I’m an avid off-roader and have tested many ATV and UTV models over the years, and what we were doing with the X7 was incredibly tame, but showed how the interface worked at least. In a real-world situation, the driver at least has some information about what is happening to the vehicle.

Self-driving potential

On the larger ramp, the X7 uses a hill assist feature that prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards. As you can see from the photos, rolling backwards would be dangerous because the driver is no longer in control and can’t see where the SUV is heading. Rolling down the ramp, the X7 can also control its speed (we used about two miles per hour) as you descend. Like many high-end luxury vehicles that use AWD and 4x4, you can also control vehicle height.

BMW X7

Photo credit: Joe Miller 

Now, I asked a BMW rep a bit of a trick question (not really, because it was fairly obvious). I wondered how this tech would help you avoid a situation where the vehicle might tip over. He said the laws of physics will always exist, and he is right about that. However, I envisioned a scenario where there is a lot more future tech involved, both in the car and around you.

For example, if an AI bot in the car was constantly analyzing the road in front of you, looking for the gradient of the road and any impediments, it might offer to steer out of troubling situations. If a BMW X7 connected to other X7 vehicles, the data on vehicle tilt could transmit to other drivers.

And, maybe it could go a step further in hill ascents. I could see a future scenario where you push a button a let the vehicle drive over a hill like the one we encountered. It would analyze the hill and then decide on your behalf if the hill was too steep. If the car can handle the hill, it could enable all of the right features for you automatically and do the driving.

BMW X7

Photo credit: Joe Miller 

How often would you encounter a hill like that in your commute? Not often. Yet, it’s impressive that the technology is there and the interface provides such rich, real-time information to the driver. Knowing it is possible is at least some assurance about handling less stressful situations.

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