Adrian van Hooydonk on BMW Vision ConnectedDrive

Adrian van Hooydonk took over as BMW Group design director when the former boss Chris Bangle departed in 2009. Since he has been busy shaping not just the future of BMW and MINI cars, but also working on BMW i, a separate unit dedicated to electric driving. We caught up with the Dutch designer earlier this month as he unveiled the Vision ConnectedDrive design study.

Adrian Van Hooydonk with the MINI Rocketman Geneva 2011

Design Talks Your new concept car Vision ConnectedDrive is more than a visual statement about the future of BMW design. What are you communicating with your latest study?

Adrian van Hooydonk Two years ago we showed Vision Efficient Dynamics that was also dealing with a new technology – in this case lightweight which is also hard to explain. With this car we are showing how internet connectivity can enhance the driver experience and not take anything away.

DT The car is very good looking. Why did you choose to showcase the technology in such a classic package, a two-seater roadster.

AVH I’m glad you like it! We like this division of classic concept and modern technology. Off course since it is a roadster from BMW is has to look sexy. In the interior we’re showing something that is light and playful. It is made of layers that wrap around the driver and the floating element in the dashboard, which we see as the next level of driver orientation.

BMW's Vision ConnectedDrive at the Geneva Motor Show 2011 ©Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

DT But what is the main story behind this vehicle?

AVH Essentially this is about the user interface. Internet connectivity is all good and well but the deciding factor will now depend on how you deliver this information to the driver and the co-driver. Connect drive is something we already offer in our vehicles today.

DT Can you explain what you mean by connect drive?

AVH It has three elements: safety, convenience and infotainment and on Vision ConnectedDrive we have used lighting to illustrate the flow of information through the vehicle.

The blue light illustrates the infotainment scenario. Here the driver enters a city he doesn’t know. The car is in contact with the environment picking up information about restaurants, bars and entertainment that sink into the car and are delivered to the co-pilot who gets this information on the personal display.

The co-pilot can then ask for more information on a certain event, buy tickets on-line, which gets downloaded to their cell-phone. The co-pilot then swooshes this information to the driver interface, the navigation then directs the car to the destination.

BMW's Vision ConnectedDrive, the metal wire mesh on the dashboard that contains the purple LED lights underneath and the sensors that allow this so called swooshing movement are quite magical.

DT This metal wire mesh on the dashboard that contains the purple LED lights underneath and the sensors that allow this so called swooshing movement are quite magical.

AVH What we’re creating is magic and so we wanted it to look like magic too which is what these LED sparkles do.

DT What does the green light represent?

AVH This is about convenience showing how internet connectivity can make life easier and movements seamless. This means when you approach the car, it recognises you and will synchronise with your cell phone so that your playlist and calendar are uploaded automatically into the car.

If you have a business appointment in the city, the minute you get in the car, the car knows where you have to be and the navigation begins, it will then find a parking spot for you – all seamlessly.

DT And red I’m guessing is about safety?

AVH That’s correct. In this scenario the car is in touch with other vehicles on the road so it gets traffic information and warns the driver of a dangerous situation ahead. If the car is in a dangerous situation it will communicate through the red light – the sensor sends the information to the driver who gets a warning, if he reacts all is ok. If not then the seatbelt activators get a warning and the break system activates and the vehicle takes over.

BMW's Vision ConnectedDrive the infotainment scenario

DT All this is very exciting but are we talking about ideas that are feasible today?

AVH I already have an app on my cell phone that allows me to track my car – it finds my car and sets of flashing lights and I can set the temperature in the car. So the stuff we are showing could easily be possible in the next five years.

DT What does this mean for people like you in design?

AVH The user interface will be a much more integral part of the car’s interior and now our challenge as designers is to express this technology in a more seamless way.

Here the driver has two screens in front of him or her that have a three-dimensional effect so that we can display information in the order of importance – the closer it gets it becomes more relevant to the driving information. Then the head up display projects information in a distance.

DT How much further will this develop?

AVH The future of head-up display will be like augmented reality so that you look into the windscreen you see the city, but you see an arrow pointing into the street that you want to go into.

Young people are expecting their driving experience to be seamless and have this kind of connectivity. It won’t take anything away from the joy of driving but frees you from a number of things.

DT How do you see this car fitting into your current portfolio?

AVH Our Megacity Vehicle that is coming out in two years will be zero emission and will have that kind of connectivity to its immediate environment in the city. This car is more for the current city – somewhere like London and Paris.

See the concept car in action here.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

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