BMW Group design director Adrian van Hooydonk told Autocar recently that touchscreens were one of a number of technology formats the car maker will use to allow drivers and passengers to interact with its next-generation vehicles.
“We will see some big steps in how you operate the vehicle, and voice control and head-up display is a big part of that,” van Hooydonk said.
“Using an iPad sitting on the sofa is easier than when you’re on the motorway. This is a challenge that we’re working on, and there will be a role for rotary-controlled iDrive for the foreseeable future, even as we introduce touchscreen.”
BMW’s rotary iDrive dial debuted in 2001 in the 7 Series limousine. It has since been rolled out into almost all new BMW Group models, including those from Mini and Rolls-Royce, while a number of rival brands have followed the German company’s lead with similar systems.
The design boss said monster touchscreens such as the 17-inch display in the Tesla Model S had no place in future BMWs, instead preferring new flexible touchscreen technology similar to that featured in the Audi Prologue concept.
“A touchscreen is a big surface, and as designers we don’t like to see big, flat surfaces. However, flexible screens are around the corner, and we are pushing for that. We are dreaming of a seamless integration between display and shape.”
Van Hooydonk wouldn’t confirm how far away such technology was from BMW cockpits, though acknowledged vehicles in its i sub-brand provided the perfect platform for the introduction of new technologies.
While the designed says the iDrive rotary controller will survive “for the foreseeable future”, he admits there will be a transition period with the introduction of newer features before it is replaced altogether.