Interview with Moritz Kirchhoff and Klaus Zyciora
Moritz Kirchhoff won the Volkswagen Interior Design Contest. We talk to him and Klaus Zyciora, who is responsible for the global design of the Volkswagen brands, about the car of the future.
Moritz Kirchhoff, congratulations on winning the Volkswagen Interior Design Contest. You entered six pieces of concept art on the car of the future. In which year and where are we looking with your pictures?
Kirchhoff: We are in a warm city, in 2035 perhaps. I took Barcelona as an example because I am fascinated by the superblock concept there, which pushes the cars out of the city a bit. Areas like parks emerge. In one of my pictures you can see that the urban islands, as I have called the cars, are allowed to circulate marginally faster than walking speed, as platforms to jump on and off of. That is the setting.
In your concept the cars are like islands that move autonomously?
Kirchhoff: That’s right, and they should integrate into the cityscape, and break the typical car design slightly through the selection of natural materials such as wood and vegetation.
“Why shouldn’t you include plants in the interior as well?”
You have even integrated plants into the roof.
Kirchhoff: That was inspired by the High Line in New York, a converted subway line in New York that has been turned into a garden that you can walk through. Why shouldn’t you include plants in the interior as well?
What drive type do you visualise these automobile islands having?
Kirchhoff: They are electric of course, that was my requirement. It’s about the vision of a different type of mobility for me: You don’t have to be fast in the city, you don’t have to be a boy racer, these islands drive slowly, you can jump on them, travel two blocks with them say, and then jump off again.
Mr Zyciora, the Interior Design Contest for the car of the future was communicated via social media. What was the aim of the call for tender?
Zyciora: Our objectives are to get people excited about mobility and the Volkswagen Group brands, point young people interested in design to the discipline of automotive design and its various facets, and to encourage discussions on the topic. Interesting mobility is no longer just the super sports car and the standard car. Like Moritz just said, we are also thinking about how to solve the problems in the city centre in many areas, for example, streets with not enough parking and insufficient sustainability
What was it about the winning themes of Moritz Kirchhoff that won over the jury?
Zyciora: The fact that he took a very conceptual approach, took a scenario and visualised it convincingly.
Mr Zyciora, when Mr Kirchhoff says that in his vision cars will be forced out of the city, is that something that worries you as a car designer?
Zyciora: No, why should that worry me? Anyone with a certain income can buy a mobility device these days, whether that is an electric bike or electric car, or a combustion engine. That’s a highly valued asset of freedom for us all, but one that causes us problems in the present volumes. We have congested cities, traffic jams, we look at emissions that aren’t improving things for the world, and are making it worse instead, and designers – not only engineers – are tasked with thinking about this and formulating ideas. With their ability to think outside the box, designers are often a catalyst for new types of movement, new ways of thinking.
So is there any overlap between the vision that Moritz Kirchhoff has outlined and how Volkswagen envisages mobility in the city in 2035 – or is it pure science fiction to you?
Zyciora: He assumes two developments on which we are currently working intensively: firstly, that cars will be driven electronically, with zero emissions. The transport sector – including all modes of transport – is responsible for a substantial part of global CO₂ emissions, which is why we want to pull this lever, and thoroughly. Secondly, that cars will be autonomous. Autonomous driving requires a lot of sensors, a lot of computing power, a 5G connection, a large energy storage system. All this is only possible with the cooperation of technologies. We will see this coming over the next few years, and it will spread. We have already seen that it is possible, quite a few years ago now, with the SEDRIC (Self Driving Car).
“At some point active driving will be for experts and the adventurous”
Is it feasible by 2035?
Zyciora: For sure. I don’t think that we will have to wait that long for autonomous driving. It will just be introduced via the luxury market, like all technology that complex, and then made accessible to everyone. At some point there will be all sorts of ways to travel autonomously: from taking the bus to super luxurious sedan chairs that carry you around.
Will you still need a driving licence in 2035?
Zyciora: I think that between now and 2050, driving schools will become centres for autonomous driving – people will have to learn how to use the software – and then at some point active driving of cars will become a bit like steering analogue airplanes, something for experts and the adventurous.
Mr Kirchhoff, what does your generation expect from a car
Kirchhoff: I grew up in the city and don’t own a car. I only use car sharing, it suits my wallet and my lifestyle. People who grow up in the country want and need very different things. But for me, a car is only a means to an end at the moment. I don’t know if that will change when I am ten years older.
Because you won the competition, you now have a cash prize of 5,000 euros to put towards studies in a creative area of your choice. Do you already have an idea of what you want to use it for?
Kirchhoff: I currently have a bachelor degree in Transportation Design and now have the opportunity to build on it with a master’s, for example, in the fields of user experience, digital experience or creative direction. That could give me an even broader view of things.
Zyciora: Congratulations once again to Moritz Kirchhoff. I hope that he enjoys a fantastic career. He is a very talented young man – stay in touch!
Kirchhoff: Thank you so much for the motivating words, that makes me very happy.