Classic Minis may be known for being spartan and simple, but today's Mini Cooper features some of the most advanced and quirky tech that its parent company, BMW, can throw at it. The next-generation 2014 Mini Cooper hardtop, scheduled to debut at the 2013 LA Auto Show in November, will boast even more tech, including a head-up display and an array of active and passive driver assistance technologies.
The head-up display, or HUD, appears to be a full-color display that will be projected onto a semitransparent lens atop the dashboard and in the driver's field of vision, rather than directly onto the windshield like many OEM HUD options. Turn-by-turn navigation graphics, current speed and speed limit information, and safety system warnings can be displayed here, keeping drivers informed without their having to look too far away from the road.
Also available on the next Mini will be a forward collision warning system with a City Braking function and pedestrian detection. When this camera-based system detects an imminent front collision or pedestrian ahead it can alert the driver with audible and visual warnings. At speeds below 35 mph, the system can even begin automatically braking the vehicle to lessen the impact or avoid a collision altogether. The sensitivity of this collision warning system can be adjusted by the driver between three levels, sounding alerts and intervening "early," "medium," or "late."
A similar collision intervention system will also be available while reversing, but obstruction detection at the rear end will be handled by sonar sensors, instead of cameras.
The same forward-facing camera that powers the collision warning is also called into play with the video-based adaptive cruise control system -- most other manufacturers use radar or sonar-based detection. This system can detect a leading vehicle and slow the Mini to maintain a safe following distance at highway speeds, down to 20 mph when the cruise control system will simply deactivate.
The camera is also used to automatically detect, read, and store signs and speed limit postings as the driver pilots the Cooper along, as well as power the automatic high-beam assistant, which dims the high beams when other cars are detected ahead to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic.
The Mini's last new trick is an automatic parallel-parking assistant like the one that we've seen in action in Ford, Land Rover, and most recently Jeep vehicles. This sonar-based system will automatically seek parking spaces that the Cooper will fit into while the driver pilots the vehicle at speeds below 20 mph. When a space of sufficient size is found, the driver will be notified to shift into reverse and modulate the brakes while the computer takes over the electronic power steering, guiding the vehicle into the space. I'm a fan of this new parking system and am glad to see more cars coming equipped with it. (I'll also be glad to see fewer drivers using the bumper check system to bump their way into spaces.)
These new assistance technologies will join the Cooper's already feature-packed bag of tech tricks, which currently includes Web connectivity, smartphone app integration, dynamic music that's generated on the fly in response to the drive, and even a trio of personalities that talk to the driver about the car's mood. The 2014 Mini Cooper will make its debut late next month at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show , so stay tuned to our continued coverage.