Why BMW's i Vision Dee color changing car is not next big thing in automotive tech

BMW's i Vision Dee concept car made waves at CES 2023 with its cutting-edge color-changing technology. The prototype promised to unleash boundless personalization options with the power to digitally alter a car's exterior with a multitude of colors and designs in real time. But is this technology practical for vehicles?

The i Vision Dee concept car showcased at CES 2023 featured a revolutionary new technology allowing near real-time customization of the car's exterior color and patterns. This technology, known as E Ink Prism 3, is the next generation of E Ink's programmable material technology. But how does it work?

BMW's electric sedan has 240 E Ink segments that can be individually controlled to show 32 different colors, animations, or messages. In addition, the technology opens up possibilities for personalization, such as showing welcome messages or even parking permits. One of the significant benefits of E Ink Prism 3 is its low energy consumption, as it only consumes power when the display is updated, and no power is consumed once the color is displayed.

With the integration of E Ink Prism 3, BMW is on a mission to enable drivers to change a vehicle's exterior in near real-time digitally. On the surface, this would open up many opportunities to personalize cars like in a videogame. But how practical is it once you get past the cool factor of E Ink?

The glitz and glamour of CES in Vegas are firmly in the rearview mirror. But many are beginning to question what problems these latest innovations are solving. The more sarcastic drivers out there might suggest that BMW should focus on finding a way of ensuring the turn signal works rather than making the cars change color. But is BMW unwittingly creating more problems?

Driven to distraction

Color-changing technology would surely hinder law enforcement's ability and make it difficult for authorities to quickly and accurately identify vehicles. For example, there is the possibility of a GTA-style police chase with officers shouting into their radios, "We are looking for a white, possibly black BMW."

If color-changing technology eventually became widespread among vehicle manufacturers, keeping track of every color change would be challenging. A complex and expensive system would be necessary, and mistakes or miscommunication could still occur. It is also unlikely that authorities would have the resources to manage this level of technological change effectively.

Lastly, the cost of fixing a damaged smartphone screen is a common fear. However, the expense of repairing even minor scratches, dents, or rock chips, let alone collision damage is arguably a more frightening concept than the car itself. As a result, some users have expressed concern that the new BMW designs prioritize ease of production over consumer durability.

When durability concerns were raised, the company replied there hadn't been any official testing on the road. But BMW would likely test that before releasing a production series car. Once again, this reply suggests that innovation on stage is not always as practical as we were initially led to believe. If we take a peak behind the curtain, BMW's color-changing car, there is an argument that this eye-catching showcase is a prototype unlikely to reach mainstream audiences anytime soon.

The debate of problem vs. technology: what comes first?

You could be forgiven for thinking that E Ink Prism 3 e-paper displays are another example of a tech solution looking for a problem. But E Ink on cars was possibly the wrong use to showcase its capabilities. Instead, it enables new use cases for displays in locations previously impossible. Obvious examples would be in the retail, home, hospital, transportation, and logistics industries.

With the technology already available, attention will be on how designers creatively use the thin and durable characteristics of e-paper displays on various materials. But instead of moving fast and breaking things with tech, it would be refreshing, to begin with, the problem rather than the technology.

In tech, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of new technologies and want to implement them as soon as possible. But Albert Einstein warned against this, saying we should spend most of our time understanding the problem, not just seeking answers. Tony Robbins agreed, pointing out that leaders often spend 95% of their time on the solution and only 5% on the problem, which typically leads to failure.

The first step to solving any problem is to understand it completely. This requires taking the time to think about the issue, ask questions, and gather information. We can start thinking about what technology could help only when we completely understand the problem. It's crucial to remember that technology is just a tool and can only be effective if it solves the right problem.

Although E Ink on cars was initially incredibly cool, February brings with it the realization that much of CES's tech was once again built on hype and future promises. The result is feelings of disappointment and a bad conference hangover. But don't worry; we'll be back to drooling over the latest shiny object that promises more than it delivers same time next year.

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