MINI Camden’s Mission Control Feature (Fail)

For the 2010 model year two special models (or packages in the US) were released to help celebrate the occasion of MINI’s 50th Anniversary. Both feature attractive trim and color choices combined with unique wheels and badging. Beyond that there really aren’t that many differences between standard models. With one exception of course. The Camden model (named after a trendy London neighborhood with more places to buy shows than you thought was imaginable) comes standard with something called Mission Control. The feature responds to your normal driving inputs by congratulating you, urging you on more than anything trying really hard to be your digital friend. Provided you don’t order Nav (which deletes the option) it’s a standard feature with the Camden that (at this point) is entirely exclusive.

And after spending some time with the car, we hope to God it stays that way. The video above likely gives tells you all you need to know about our reaction to the system.

Perhaps the only redeeming quality (we can find) is that you can hack the system by taking the MINI SD card out and using a SD reader to replace files with a computer. Basically they’re all just sound files so as long as the file structure and file names stay the same, you could presumably just replace what ever is there with your own sounds.

Still with that said we were happy to hear that once the system is turned off, it remains off until it’s turned back on. In fact that’s the best feature we found with Mission Control.

  • JonPD

    I give props to MINI for taking a shot at something unique, I do however have to ask myself if there is any nationality that the MINI brand is sold into that would tolerate this feature for more than the first few moments. If so I do wonder just how much money and time was tied up with this project and how it could get so far along to end up in a product without any of the very talented people at MINI realizing just what they have developed.

  • Give me HAL or KITT, but those voices remind me of a terrible sitcom that isn’t funny.

  • Jimuth

    If Mission Control allowed personalisation or supported SD-card changes, then it’d be probably be less of a bad thing … I’d play with it to have a laugh, have the MINI speaking German or something – “schnell!”

    You only have to see how much user-created content is on the TomTom site (for example) to see that people do like personalising everything.

    So maybe it’s just the implementation that’s flawed? As with anything done by big business trying to be kooky (especially a German company trying to make their car sound English and eccentric!), it just comes off as an embarrassment.

    Me, I’d have it if I when I hit 90 I get Austin Powers saying “yeeeeaaaaaah baby!” 🙂

  • Jimuth

    It gets worse when you hear more of the comments:

  • Eddie

    Go MINI on this one! I would love to have this feature. This is showing creativity and audacity. Bravo MINI.

  • goat

    I agree it is the implementation rather than the idea that renders this painful to watch… i saw the vid yesterday and could tell by the tone of Gabe’s voice that he had the same impressions I did (“he sounds really excited”). 🙂 It is like a heavily dumbed down saturday morning cartoon — cheesy but with no trace of irony hence entirely unbearable to any post-post-post-modern MINI owners (pretty much all of us).

    Perhaps v2 will tone down the “false friend” quotient and offer a “just the facts” electronic co-pilot, at least as one of several co-pilot personalities that the user can select.

  • How did MINI marketing / engineering ever think folks would pay for this!

  • goat

    Holy wow Jimuth – I watched the Autoweek vid you linked to… his reaction is priceless! This would be even funnier if it wasn’t so sad… 🙂

  • jbkONE

    I’m probably one of the people that “might” like it… but then I talk back to my GPS too (“oops, missed that turn, you’re going to have to recalculate…”) Sometimes I talk to my MINI – it would be neat if she’d talk back!

    It did seem like the car’s comments were a bit over the top and long winded though.

  • JonPD

    The Auto Week video pretty sums up this development for me personally.

    Just all in all the Mission Control, Open sensor going into live products generally explain that little has changed at BMW/Mini that gave us one of the cheapest and toy like center stacks that I have ever seen. Also amazes me how some so ridiculed ever got past a group of intelligent people to make it to market. Actually this tends to give me less hope for the mid cycle redesign and the next generation MINI in many ways know group think at MINI though the ultimate nanny aid would be a sought after product.

  • I think Goofy’s voice would have been better. Stupid idea.

  • eager2own

    Glad to see the engineers of the cabrio’s open meter are still employed.

  • 777

    I can see a worthwhile application of this technology, like giving you the PSI of all tires, or telling you which traction control setting is currently active, or what the outside temperature is, if you ask for the information. But the back and forth banter is something that should be left to the rides at Walt Disney World. Who the heck is in charge of selecting/implementing these features, the person who did the dash? They should have been fired long ago.

  • ftttubrgcm

    If MINI wants this in their prduction vehicles, then leave it but I hope the default setting is “off”. Also, talking cars went out with “your door is ajar” warning back in the day. Inanimate objects “talking” is ridiculous except for the visually impaired.

  • KPH

    These design anomalies are amazingly disconnected from the human psyche. A disembodied voice giving the first time user the step-by-step procedure to self-pay at airport parking or buying lottery tickets is fine, but a few minutes with this (as is) could turn into “Homer and Bart go for a drive”.

  • Carnell

    If customization of the voices becomes something that MINI supports like @Jimuth mentioned with the tomtom website I think it would really take off. You basically have MINI giving you the structure and from there you can implement what voices you like for said actions.

    Yeaaaaa baby for hitting 90 miles an hour as previously mentioned or Mr. T saying “I pity tha fool” if someone rolled down the window while the A/c was on or if the radio was turned down from the knob in the center stack as opposed to the steering wheel controls. (assuming you have friends who don’t know better.)

    People like to customize mirror caps and wallpapers and icons on their computers & I think MINI has something if they allow the consumer to customize this easily.

  • James Irmiger

    I say you ditch the voices and replace them with sound effects from Star Trek! Phazers, Photon Torpedos, and Warp Drive!!! 😉

  • Hoover

    @ James: I like it…but would it be classic Trek or TNG? I would opt for Star Wars. All black Darth Vader exterior. White stormtrooper interior. I’m married, so I could get away with this level of geek. And then, after about a week, buyers remorse would set in…and this toy would be turned off.

  • Cory

    Watching that video made me feel embarrassed.

  • C4


    “Just all in all the Mission Control, Open sensor going into live products generally explain that little has changed at BMW/Mini that gave us one of the cheapest and toy like center stacks that I have ever seen. Also amazes me how some so ridiculed ever got past a group of intelligent people to make it to market. Actually this tends to give me less hope for the mid cycle redesign and the next generation MINI in many ways know group think at MINI though the ultimate nanny aid would be a sought after product.”

    This is akin to throwing something at the wall and see what “sticks”.

    MINI is a car company hijacked by group think and marketeers. Totally different from the enterprise that brought us one of the best small markets in history 10 years ago.

  • Gary (the other one)

    The Autoweek clip is hilarious! The driver’s look of incredulity and disbelief will certainly be shared by many.

    Actually I believe this is a thinly veiled plot by MINI AG to get buyers to shell out $2K for the Nav System, if for no other reason than to take comfort in the fact that the Mission Control is not installed.

  • I like the idea of this, I am just not crazy about many of the voice clips I have heard. A few of them on the video I liked but many seemed a little over the top silly and I do not like.

    As long as you could change out annoying ones I like this idea.

    @James – Startrek sounds…I might have to buy a new MINI for that!

  • rosvick

    If I had Mission Control, there would be a big hole the size of my fist right through the speedometer!

  • supawako

    that’s not cool… it’s kind of lame. -_-#

  • Aaron

    What gets me is that they spent time and resources building this crap (open-o-meter, mission control) rather than giving us a new gauge set option for the R56, in line with the Chrono Pack on the R53’s. It’s like the R60 rail thing…they’re spending more time and money on quirky design elements which customers either love or hate rather than spending time/money on things like better quality interior finish, options that most enthusiasts would enjoy…or, dare I say it…designing a MINI-BMW cross-platform diesel engine that can be marketed in MINIs in the US.

  • James Irmiger

    Hoover, that would be Classic Trek! Could you imagine when you turn something off hearing Bones saying “He’s dead Jim!”? Or maybe turning on the radio and hearing a Tri-corder noise? God, I could really have fun with that SD card! I’m such a geek 😉

  • ftttubrgcm

    Does anyone out there still have custom sounds associated with their computer actions? Or does anyone want to hear the same jokes over and over again from that annoying guy everyone tries to stay away from? I could go on…

  • rhawth99

    Aaron, your comments really nailed the issue. To waste engineering dollars on stuff like this is criminal.

  • lavardera

    if this was an open platform, programable, it could really add value. Imagine if you could choose from a menu of which functions and data points that the OBC monitors and choose when you recived and audio alert. Tire pressure after start up? Rapid delta in coolant temperature? O2 sensor anomalies?

    It could be really useful as an owner programed alert system. Limiting it to a bunch of cartoon voice comments really seams like a missed opportunity.

  • I think its great idea. While I would not want to all the time I could find some enjoyment in it on long solo drives.

    It would be cool to change one of the “Let’s MINI!” sounds to Inna Godda Davida.

  • edjones

    This is the nail in the coffin for my time with Mini. I’ve had an 09 JCW for the last year and a half and have watched Mini as a brand focus on “FUN!!” I knew Mini had jumped the shark when it came it with some of its useless accessory gauges like “torque meter” and “”g force” meter. So much for it’s strong motorsports heritage. Goodbye Mini, hello M3….

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  • This would make a funny 30 second commercial … but actually implemented in a car?!?! come on.

  • Absolutely embarrassing. Shame on MINI. I thought the company had some taste! How did this get through?

  • C4

    MINI, address your QC issues instead of wasting time and money in these futile exercises! Fix the interior of the cars and correct the design snafus of the exterior that still plague the 2nd gen cars..