Rolls-Royce has unveiled what it claims to be the “ultimate concept car”, in a rare insight into how the luxury vehicle maker sees the future of motoring.
The “103EX” model aims to predict what the Rolls-Royce of 25 years’ time will look like, a much longer time frame than most concept cars.
The car is almost 20 feet long, but is a coupe that seats just two people on one giant sofa, facing a huge screen.
Chauffeurs will be a thing of the past, as there is no steering wheel and the car will be completely self driving.
The vehicle is expected to be entirely voice controlled, with passengers interacting with “Eleanor”, a female-voiced artificial intelligence programme.
The inspiration for Eleanor comes from Eleanor Thornton, the actress and model upon whom Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet ornament is based.
The car is electrically powered, and throwing out the traditional engine has given designers the freedom to let their imaginations run wild.
With the electric motors housed in the wheel hubs or under the floor, the space under the “bonnet” has been freed up for the installation of two giant trunks to hold owners’ clothes. These slide out at hand height on command.
Normal doors have been eschewed for a single, two-piece “clam shell” that Rolls-Royce chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös believes will make getting out of a car a “grand entrance”, rather than an undignified duck and shuffle.
“The roof will swing up and the door swing open so you stand up and step out of the car,” he said, adding that the concept was reminiscent of Renaissance artist Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
However, with only a single opening on side, customers will have to choose which side they want to step out of – a factor which could be influenced by whichever side of the street a customer’s favourite hotel or restaurant is.
To enhance the entrance, lasers mounted under the door also project what Rolls-Royce calls a “personal red carpet”.
Manufacturing advances, such as 3D printing, over the next quater of a century are also expected to make the car fully personalised inside and out, complete with handcrafted products.
Mr Müller-Ötvös said he expects the advent of self-driving technology to commoditise cars, meaning shared ownership and autonomous cars will become “anonymous bubbles”.
This is where Rolls can stand out, he says.
“Our owners will not want drive in these ghastly bubbles, they want to sit in unbelievable relaxation in cars that make a statement,” Mr Müller-Ötvös said, adding that the Rolls of the future was likely to be less understated than current models, as emphasised by the striking design.
The 103EX is a “lighthouse project” according to Rolls-Royce, intended to focus employees on what the future holds for the company. The current vehicle can be “driven” at low speed, though controlled from a keypad rather than via commanding Eleanor, whose technology is still being developed. An unidentified actress has been recruited to give her a voice.
The idea of fully bespoke exteriors is a back to the future move for Rolls-Royce, returning to its earliest days when the company built the chassis and then sent it to coachbuilders to provide the body.
The 103EX is part of Rolls-Royce parent group BMW’s celebration of its 100th anniversary.
Source: The Telegraph