Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design Volkswagen Brand

Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design Volkswagen Brand

In today's car interior, space in front of the wheel remains a priority with the explosion of added content and features. In tomorrow's self-driving car, space behind will be transformed into a comfortably designed control and entertainment centre. Continuing just-auto/QUBE's series of interviews with OEMs, we spoke to Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design Volkswagen Brand to learn more about I.D. VIZZION, consumers' desire for individuality, new mobility concepts and the implications for automotive interiors.

I.D. VIZZION is VW's vision of tomorrow's individual mobility. It is based on the newly developed modular electrification toolkit (MEB) and underscores the technological performance capabilities of this architecture. From the outside, it is as large as a Passat, but it offers as much space in the interior as a Phaeton. The interior has the shape and materials of a lounge. In addition, the radical simplification of operation makes for effortless mobility. Passengers can opt for entertainment, information, relaxation or work, in line with their personal wishes. The pure electric range of the model is up to 400 miles.

Volkswagen says e- mobility, autonomous driving, digital networking of all road users and new mobility services are key levers for making mobility in cities more efficient and cleaner. There are, of course, fundamental differences between the world's metropolitan areas. To come up with solutions for future individual mobility tailored as precisely as possible to the different needs, a team at Volkswagen Group Research made up of some 200 experts from all departments and brands work on the most important trends and scenarios. These 'Future Heads' are aiming to present a vision of individual mobility by the year 2030. In San Francisco, for example, electric vehicles will spread rapidly thanks to a tech-savvy, eco-friendly population. Some 130 million people will already live in the Beijing metropolitan area in 2030, and they will need dedicated expressways for autonomous vehicles. Passenger drones could even take people to their destination in the more distant future. And in Mumbai with its chronically overloaded transport system, innovative rapid buses, e-mobility zones and new shared mobility concepts will bring relief.

When a new car buyer jumps into a Volkswagen, how should the interior make them feel?

We have always placed great importance on ergonomics, high-quality materials, and maximum comfort in every Volkswagen to create a pleasant atmosphere in which customers can intuitively operate everything.

In the future, cars will increasingly become a place of communication because driver assistance systems and digitalisation are assuming more of the control functions in vehicles.

In the future, cars will increasingly become a place of communication because driver assistance systems and digitalisation are assuming more of the control functions in vehicles. Then drivers and passengers should experience an ambience that caters to their individual needs, is comfortable and bright. And the open space of the I.D., which will be introduced to the market in 2020, will do precisely this. It shifts the focus to people, is positive, honest and purely fascinating. The driver's seat is the interactive heart of a mobile living space that has the atmosphere of a lounge and intuitive, clear functionality.

There is a lot of talk about the autonomous car, defined by the SAE as Level 5. In what ways will such a car change the look and feel of the Volkswagen cockpit?

This fully autonomously driving Volkswagen does not need any traditional driver's seat with cockpit.

The systematic implementation of autonomous driving enables occupants to be freed completely from any sort of driving task. As we already demonstrated in all I.D. family show cars, we firmly believe in this technology. In the I.D. VIZZION we presented a vision of a potentially fully autonomous, luxury saloon. It goes one step further than I.D., I.D. BUZZ and I.D. CROZZ and, without a steering wheel, dash panel, and foot pedals, it entirely relieves its occupants of the task of driving. This fully autonomously driving Volkswagen does not need any traditional driver's seat with cockpit. Therefore, the space was designed to surround the passengers like a cocoon, creating a relaxed atmosphere. Foot rests invite guests to relax. Contributing to this comfort are select materials such as vegetable-tanned leather and natural, untreated woods from sustainable cultivation.

What does the trend for increased digital content mean for Volkswagen information displays?

The aspects of digitalisation, connectivity and customisation play increasingly larger roles: Vehicles are becoming more and more integrated as objects in the Internet of Things. They are becoming more intelligent and are starting to network more with the environment, other road users, and the driver. This has tremendously influenced vehicle design. One key challenge for HMI design is that the car of the future will be much more complex for users. We have to solve this by simplifying these many complex layers in such a way that people can immediately operate the vehicles intuitively without a long familiarisation period. Our I.D. family show cars demonstrate our line of thinking here. The I.D. VIZZION. in particular. is playing a pioneering role in this context: It has an innovative, holographic interface which allows its occupants to communicate and control the vehicle by voice and gesture control. This radical simplification of user operation produces effortless mobility. The focus can be on entertainment, information, relaxation, or work, depending on the demands of passengers.

We understand that, for car manufacturers as well as their suppliers, individualisation is a growth market that offers great potential for differentiation. How is Volkswagen responding to that?

The strong desire for individuality and our customers' increasingly diversified needs will bring extensive changes.

The strong desire for individuality and our customers' increasingly diversified needs will bring extensive changes. On the one hand, there will be many people who no longer feel that it is important to own a car and want to use ridesharing. Volkswagen Group is working on convincing concepts in this regard. On the other hand, there will be many customers who still place particular importance on owning their own vehicles. Especially in large markets like China or the USA, mobility is developing into an expression of individual freedom and personality. These types of customers have certain requirements when it comes to design. So, the individual needs of people will be expressed in very different vehicle concepts. And we already provide diverse product offerings along these lines today. For the future, we are ready to offer the right design solutions.

What are the other megatrends in the automotive interiors industry and how could they shape the look and feel of tomorrow's Volkswagen cabin?

The electric drive offers much more freedom in terms of vehicle design. We can minimise cooling openings, shift the axles further outward, and create completely new proportions. This is how we were able to implement the interior dimensions of a Passat with the traffic footprint of a Golf. Everything is clear-cut, it has substantial volume, maximum precision, a charismatic front section, iconically distinctive C-pillars, flowing and sculpted surfaces, and deliberately expressive wheels – that is the layout of future electric Volkswagen vehicles.

How does your team set about creating a 'design language' for a VW?

We take a hard look at how people use vehicles, what they find appealing, and what priorities they have.

Taking a conscious look at peoples' ways of life around the world and divining trends is an essential aspect of our work, of course. The composition of our team of designers from more than 40 countries all over the world also influences our approach. The results of trend research and our own studies are the starting point for our analyses. Our strength is a user-centered design: We take a hard look at how people use vehicles, what they find appealing, and what priorities they have. We then develop concepts that demonstrate how these things can be implemented in a new Volkswagen. Beneath a characteristic design, smart functionalities and connectivity will play a large part in how appealing vehicles are for people in the future.

How do you set about creating the right 'harmony' in a new Volkswagen?  

We are already opening up the space on the inside to offer more room for more opportunities.

Volkswagen is characterised by balanced transparency. We want people to feel good in our vehicles. This is initially based on excellent ergonomics. Everything is where you want it and features are self-explanatory. In terms of design we aim to go the extra mile and give the vehicle a homely atmosphere. In the future we will be able to increasingly use the vehicle as an extension of our living space: spending time together, being active or simply relaxing and leaning back. We are already opening up the space on the inside to offer more room for more opportunities. We are intensively looking into questions relating to how we can create new benefits thanks to new technologies or make the vehicle's intelligence tangible to humans.