The head of design for Hyundai’s luxury brand, Genesis, says headlights are on their way out, as the generation of autonomous vehicles look set to take over.
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Speaking to CarAdvice at the New York motor show this week, Luc Donckerwolke, the former design director at Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley and now the chief designer at Genesis, believes car designers need to get away from the cycle of repeating the same design elements and instead focus on pushing future-proof designs, starting with altering headlight requirements.

“[Headlights] are not eyes, they will evolve,” Donckerwolke said.

“We are in the phase of changing where the lights are technology elements which show, and have a function and that function will certainly disappear in the future because when you have an autonomous car, you won’t need lights anymore.

"What happens is you will have scanners, lasers and radars and you won’t need any lights anymore, apart from decoration or architecture to show identity.”


Although implementation of fully autonomous vehicles is still at least a decade away, the move to reduce the size of the headlights comes at the beginning of the Genesis brand’s design history, which Donckerwolke says is vital because the South Korean brand has the unique opportunity to start fresh, unshackled by history.

“When you are trying to do the next generation of a product that has 100 years of history your impulse is basically guided by the past, so you are basically adding a step. What we are doing here is creating the first step. Each design element you find there is not designing the car but showing the public the first interpretation of the DNA of the brand…Every step we do is designing the legacy of the brand.”

The headlights are part of that new found legacy, with all future Genesis models set to adapt the GV80 concept’s quadlights, which will be much smaller than standard headlights used by other brands.


“The main element is the grille, then the lights, we call it quadlights, all the Genesis [models] will have the quadlights. We are reducing the size because we are anticipating the fact that cars won’t need headlights anymore.”

Donckerwolke points out that one of the most iconic car designs in history never had headlights, so any fears of a consumer backlash for cars no longer having ‘eyes’ will likely be short lived and unjustified.


“One of the best cars in the history of car design, the Bugatti royal [Esders coupe], didn’t have lights and this is one of the most fascinating Bugattis so I believe that not having the typical lights as eyes won’t be a drawback, to the contrary, we have to get back from this typical repetition of orchestrating the same design elements in the future.”

The Genesis GV80 SUV concept showcased the onslaught of six models coming from the South Korean luxury brand in the next few years, with the local launch of Genesis expected with the new G80 in the second half of this year.