Lately, BMW has been very talkative about its design philosophy. The Bavarian brand told us it doesn’t understand companies adopting an EV-specific design language and it also promised its future designs will be cleaner (see the related links below). The new 5 Series / i5 duo is probably good proof of both claims but there’s something new on the horizon that BMW is trying to address – artificial intelligence.
AI is the technology simulating human intelligence processes, a system that is self-learning and improving with time. It can be used for much more than just conversations and BMW admits it has started experiments with automotive design by artificial intelligence. The firm’s design boss Adrian van Hooydonk recently said in an interview that AI has been used in various design tasks already.
Gallery: 2024 BMW i5: On Location
“We are experimenting with it in design, for instance in wheel design,” Hooydonk tells TopGear. “You can set a few parameters – like, you want a five-spoke wheel, it should only weigh this much, it should be a 20-inch rim – and then the computer begins to generate ideas for you.”
To us, this sounds both scary and perspective. Computer-generated ideas aren’t necessarily bad but, of course, you need to have boundaries set right from the beginning. And, thankfully, BMW has no intentions of letting AI take full charge of the design process.
“Still, as a person, as a human being, you need to be the art director. You need to pick. You still have to guide the process – it's not like the computer can completely invent things, but it can combine various parameters into a proposal much quicker than a human being,” Hooydonk explains further.
Can you rely on AI for complete car designs? Not really as the technology uses images and sketches that are available online and combines them in different ways to generate new designs. And while this sounds like a lot of fun to us, Hooydonk simply says the result feels like something you’ve already seen.