Mini's latest concept is the mood ring of cars

Changing your borrowed vehicle’s paint job could make car-sharing cooler.

Mini has produced tight, efficient economy vehicles since its first car was introduced in 1959. But its parent company BMW has been exploring how differently cars will be used in the future with its concept cars. Unlike the luxury emphasis of its self-driving Rolls Royce and BMW models, the Mini entry in the Vision Next 100 line expands customization for multiple users, a clear benefit for a car-sharing ecosystem.

BMW/Mini is already testing car-sharing in London with its DriveNow program. Its ReachNow pilot program in Seattle is a slightly different, more exclusive Zipcar-style exchange for select drivers, but both pose the same challenge for the Mini concept car: creating a vehicle that appeals to all drivers but can feel customized for each.

Its translucent look is actually an unmodified neutral mode: for car-sharing borrowers or different drivers in the same household, the vehicle can change its exterior to give it a personal touch. As Autoblog points out, this is the same thing Mini's parent company BMW showed off for its Next Vision 100 line at the NY Auto Show, and BMW has the tech for its external sensors to automatically ID drivers and re-skin as they approach. That kind of automatic sensing could extend to sensing the environment and changing suspension accordingly when driving on rougher roads.

The Mini Vision Next 100's design brings other advances, like reducing interior clutter by doing away with instruments entirely, instead projecting that information on the windshield. But in the battle for future vehicles, it's clear that BMW is investing in the Mini's economy and customization while leaving the truly advanced self-driving innovations for its more expensive brands.