WHEN WE imagine a Roll-Royce, images spring to mind of deep-pile carpets, lashings of leather, acres of wood trim, a couple of Dartington crystal tumblers in the back and a gargantuan V12 engine under the bonnet that drinks more oil than a four oven Aga.
But in a sign of the changing times, the British manufacturer of luxury motor carriages has peered into the future and imagined what a self-driving Roller could be like.
The answer is likely to raise an eyebrow or two at golf clubs across Britain. Called the Vision Next 100, the concept car is powered by electric motors, only has two seats and the dashboard and controls for the driver have been banished for good.
Instead of doors that would be opened by James, the Driver, the Vision Next 100 features a lifting roof. In perfect synchronisation with the door, it raises towards the sky, meaning the two passengers can walk into the car, take their seats, before the car closes around them.
Once inside the Rolls of the future, the environment will feel alien to today’s drivers. Seats are replaced by a minimalist-looking sofa, the dashboard is ditched, and a steering wheel and pedals are history. The self-driving vehicle of the future has no need for any of the features of today’s car; little wonder the company refers to the cabin as “the Grand Sanctuary”.
Instead, the emphasis is on simplicity and creating a calm environment for passengers to relax in. There is Macassar wood panelling, a large OLED screen and silk sofa. It’s all terribly ‘spa bar’.
Those who find Rolls-Royce cars ostentatious had better prepare themselves for the prospect of even more outlandish displays of wealth and one-upmanship.
Rolls-Royce says that in the future, it will return to bespoke coachbuilding. This means that it will develop a platform and electric powertrain, but customers can choose how their car is designed.
The company says it will “design and manufacture this personal vision of each customer and make every Rolls-Royce a unique bespoke masterpiece”.
The carbon-fibre chassis is powered by two electric motors – one at the front and the other at the rear – which give a total output of 500kW, equivalent to 670bhp. That power is sent to all four wheels which stand at an impressive 28-inches and are housed within aerodynamic fairings.
With no driving to do, passengers can converse with one another or catch up with a virtual personal assistant, which will take care of organising the week’s diary, booking restaurants or checking in for a flight to JFK.
Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the CEO of Rolls-Royce, said the company did not want to dwell on the past when creating the Vision Next 100 concept car. “We wanted to be as innovative as possible and at the same time transcend the design history of the marque.”