Is it purely for design or does BMW think it will actually serve a purpose?
Have you spent your entire adult life looking for a car with a transparent glove box or armrest? Have we got some good news for you. BMW recently filed a patent at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office for interior storage space with a cover than can go from transparent to non-transparent.
According to the patent, this hypothetical storage space will be covered in a robust glass with BMW's new e-ink material on top. BMW says there are advantages to having a see-through armrest. You can keep it transparent while on the go, so you know exactly what you have in there, but as soon as you park the car, it goes opaque, and low-lifes can't see what you're hiding in there.
We're not entirely sure what the Germans are trying to develop or hide here. Less than a month ago, Porsche filed a patent for hidden storage space in the door jam.
It's all too easy to poke fun at an unusual patent like this. Why would you want to see what's in the glove compartment or underneath the armrest at all times? And if you don't remember, you can simply open them up and have a look.
But patents like these are usually just the starting point of advanced technology. BMW could potentially integrate a hidden storage space within the new 7 Series interior. Thanks to the minimalist design, there's a lot of room left over for a hidden cubby. You could store valuable or even dangerous items in there, like a legal handgun.
You don't always want to carry, but leaving an unattended gun in the car is not a good idea. With this system, a thief would never even know it was there. And once you get back to the car, you simply push a button to see whether your shooter is still where it's supposed to be.
BMW recently showed what its e-ink technology is capable of on the iX. The e-ink on the iX is a wrap, and it uses the same principle as the transparent storage mentioned above. When a current is applied to the wrap, it brings out different color pigments to the surface. BMW said it already has a broad spectrum of colors available, and it will keep on adding new colors to the e-ink technology.
That leads us to believe that this interior application can go beyond simply making a center armrest transparent. Certain design elements on the inside could be covered with this new material, and the driver can change the color to suit their mood. Feeling angry? How about some red? Sexually frustrated? Have some orange. The tech is already advanced enough to read your mind.
Or it could just be another one of BMW's shock and awe for engineering capabilities. Manufacturers are increasingly desperate to one-up each other with new features the marketing team can use to lure potential customers.
BMW's gesture control is a prime example. You could use it and wave your finger about to turn the volume up, or you could just use the steering wheel or center console buttons. But that's missing the point. Shock and awe features exist, so you can show them to your mates when you buy the car and then forget about them for the rest of the ownership experience. It's like Tesla's fart feature. Funny for five minutes, but then you move on with your life.
Still, this tech has great potential, and we look forward to seeing how BMW implements it into its vehicles.