Rolls-Royce unveils its first driverless car Prototype

Rolls-Royce unveils its first driverless car
Peter Campbell, Motor Industry Correspondent June 16, 2016 12:22 pm

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars on Thursday unveiled its first driverless car, with a “vision vehicle” it hopes will cast a glimpse into the future of luxury transport.

With no steering wheel, a door on one side only and a virtual assistant that can book hotels or advise on your wardrobe selection, the car marks a different direction for a super-luxury marque.

Several carmakers have revealed plans for self-driving vehicles. But Rolls-Royce said its customers, who pay as much as £1m for a bespoke, hand-built model, will still demand a luxurious riding experience in an era where everyone will be chauffeured by robots.

“In 25 years from now, when you see commoditised bubbles as cars, there will be our customers who are used to sitting in something that is luxury,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

The design, over a year in the making, is a rejection of “utilitarian and bland future modes of mobility”, he added.

The driverless car, called the 103EX, was unveiled in London at a centenary celebration for BMW, the German carmaker that owns Rolls-Royce. The car shown by the company is a working model, capable of a top speed of 3mph and driven by an operator using a mobile phone.

Gone is the 12-cylinder engine that sits under the hood of Rolls-Royces of today.

The new car is meant to have zero emissions — although the company admitted it has no idea what will power the vehicle when it enters production in the late 2040s.

“We are currently assuming it will be electric”, Mr Müller-Ötvös said.

The door, which will be on one side only, includes a laser projector that will cast a virtual red carpet on to the floor spreading away from the vehicle to create a “grand arrival”.

But patrons of the car will also be saved the indignity of clambering out.

An opening roof, modelled on the clam shell in the Botticelli painting “The birth of Venus”, would allow passengers to stand up and step out of the car.

Inside, in an area called the “grand sanctuary”, a silk sofa sits opposite a 1.5 metre screen that can be used for watching films — or can become transparent to reveal the surroundings.

But not every aspect of Rolls-Royce’s current models has been thrown out of the virtual window.

The radiator on the front of the car, and the iconic Winged Lady on the front, will remain “for as long the company exists”.

And despite having no engine, it will also be the length of a current Rolls-Royce Phantom — just shy of six metres.

Where the 12-cylinder engine once lay will be a luggage compartment, which Rolls-Royce designed after consulting the concierge at London’s Dorchester hotel.

The bags will eject automatically when the car is stopped, leaving at hand height to allow the porter to whisk them away to the waiting suite.

“Most Rolls-Royce customers never touch their luggage”, Mr Müller-Ötvös said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016.


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