The head of design at BMW has admitted the company’s trademark iDrive infotainment system controller will make way for touchscreen technology in the future.

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.

Audi-Prologue-concept

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.