BMW wants to simplify driving with multi-function gear selector.
Be it manual or automatic transmissions, the way we change gears in our cars hasn't changed much over the last 50 years or so. Yes, paddle shifters have become commonplace and dial-type selectors are used in some cases, but the standard central shift lever has remained pretty much untouched.
However, automakers are increasingly finding ways to revolutionize this aspect of the modern vehicle. Tesla has introduced a polarizing touchscreen-based gear selector, while Genesis has designed a 'Crystal Sphere' shifter for the GV60 that takes the form of a spinning orb. Not wanting to be outdone, BMW has filed a trademark for its own futuristic take on a gear selector. We can only hope it's more successful if it goes into production than the first iteration of iDrive was.
The BMW patent uncovered by CarBuzz, filed via the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), differs from the ones explained above as it seeks to combine the tasks of a push-button ignition, a mechanical or electrical park brake, and a conventional shift lever into one drive controller.
Apparently, BMW thinks these "multiplicity of different control elements" are superfluous. It proposes just a single control element that switches the vehicle between a park state and driving state. For example, when you pull up at home after a long day at the office, you can simply select park and get out of the vehicle; no need to fuss with a start/stop button or handbrake. The car will automatically decide whether the park brake is needed based on several parameters like the gradient or whether or not the accelerator pedal is being used.
Then again, the conventional procedure BMW describes only takes a second or two, so we're not sure why a single controller is required at all. BMW says its controller can retract so that it sits flush with the console when in the park state, and extends out again when in the drive state. It can also be rotated. A small touchscreen on the controller itself can also display the specific state the car is in.
These features may be cool party tricks, but they sound counterintuitive to the patent's greater goal of simplifying the start/setting off and stop/switching off tasks. BMW mentions that the new technology could be used for both hybrids or EVs, but even the dramatic XM plug-in hybrid still has a conventional shift lever. Perhaps we'll see the all-in-one BMW controller in a future BMW i model, but no matter how futuristic it may look, we hope it isn't a step forward for style and two steps back for functionality.