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BMW designer: The next step is to make technology vanish

BMW debuted several concepts at the the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show including the stunning orange Vision Future Interaction and the i8 Mirrorless.

The man behind the design of these stunning concepts is BMW Group’s head of design Adrian Van Hooydonk.

Van Hooydonk — who has a background in industrial design — has been at BMW for more than 20 years and has served the design boss since 2009.

Under his watch, BMW has introduced a host of brilliantly designed cars such as the BMW i8, the new 7-Series, and the 2-Series.

The Dutch designer sat down with Business Insider over breakfast during the 2016 Consumer Electronics show.

We talked about a variety of subjects including the effect technology has on car design, how consumers will interact with cars in the future and how autonomous driving will affect BMW’s performance driving ethos.

Here are some of the takeaways from our interview.

On the future of design of cars:

“The next step of technology development will see technology disappear from the surface ” Van Hooydonk said. “In the Vision Concept, you don’t see any switches but there some very complex technology working in the background making that possible.”

Today, there’s loads of technology in cars, but it is all very obvious to the passengers. In the future, the goal is to offer a greater level of integration between design and technology.

For instance, the Vision concept features a touch-sensitive leather surface. To the user, looks like any other part of a leather-lined interior, but there is a touch pad integrated underneath the leather.

“I believe we are approaching a time where technology is truly becoming integrated into the design of the cars,” he added “So integrated that you don’t see it, you just use it.”

On the effect the tech industry is having on the car industry:

“In the electronics industry, people are getting used to product lead times of 2 to 3 years,” Van Hooydonk said. “In the automotive industry, that period is bit longer, usually 7 to 8 years.”

As a result, car companies have struggled to keep up with the pace product innovation seen in offerings from the world’s leading tech firms.

“What we now have to do is uncouple the life cycle of the hardware and the software by offering such things as over-the-air software updates,” he added. “As soon as we can do that, we will be in sync with the electronics industry.”

BMW 7 SeriesMatthew DeBord/Business Insider

On what happens when the “ultimate driving machine” no longer requires a driver:

Over the years, BMW has cultivated a reputation as one of the industry’s leading producers of high performance and fun-to-drive automobiles. In fact, the company refers to itself as the maker of the ultimate driving machine. So what happens when the ultimate driving machine no longer needs a driver?

“We don’t want to take anything away from our customers, most of all the driving pleasure,” Van Hooydonk said. “With technology, we can make our customers better drivers and help take away some of the downsides of individual mobility.”

For instance, when the driver is stuck in unpleasant driving conditions such as a traffic jam or hunting for a parking spot, the car’s autonomous technology can take over and will relieve the driver from a stressful situation. But when the on the open road, the driver can take over and enjoy the dynamic nature of the BMW, Van Hooydonk said.

“We will have to technology and we will have the great driving experience,” he added. “It will be up to the driver to choose how to use it.”

NOW WATCH: BMW made the first hybrid you won’t be embarrassed to be seen driving

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