The Rolls-Royce of the 22nd century won't need a chauffeur

How a Rolls-Royce might look in 2114
How a Rolls-Royce might look in 2114

Many Rolls-Royce owners don't drive the car themselves. They hire someone to do that. In the next century they won't even have to bother paying someone to drive their Rolls. The car will take care of the driving on its own.

Also, in the distant future, Rolls-Royce buyers won't have to bother with selecting from a limited model range and just choosing paint colors and interior options. Instead, every Rolls-Royce buyer will be able to create a completely unique car suited to his or her own tastes.

At least that's what Rolls-Royce's parent company, BMW (BAMXY), expects. As part BMW's 100th birthday celebration, the German luxury automaker has been unveiling a series of futuristic concept cars it calls its "Vision Next 100 Cars" cars. Two of those cars, a Rolls-Royce and a Mini, were unveiled in London Thursday. BMW owns both of the British car brands.

The Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 lacks any driving controls whatsoever since the car will always drive itself. It would be propelled by a "zero-emissions powertrain," although a Rolls-Royce spokesman did not specify what that would be.

This concept car is intended to represent just one among limitless possibilities the future individual of ample means could choose. Thanks to what are expected to be extraordinarily flexible manufacturing technologies in the future, Rolls-Royce designers of the future will be able to work with clients to create virtually any shape, size or style of car imaginable. Buyers will no longer have to have to choose a Phantom, Wraith or Dawn. The can create their own Rolls-Royce and call it, one presumes, anything they wish.

In the case of the Vision Next 100, making an entrance was apparently very important to this imaginary future customer. Along with the doors, the roof also opens, allowing occupants to simply stand right up and walk out of the car. None of that awkward bending over to get out. Light projections create a virtual red carpet on the ground.

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Inside the car, occupants are assisted by Eleanor, a computer-generated virtual assistant who appears in a transparent display. She's a lifelike embodiment of the famous Spirit of Ecstasy statuette that rides atop the grill of every Rolls-Royce and which was modeled after the Edwardian-era actress and model Eleanor Thornton.

Passengers can ask Eleanor to take them somewhere or to find a good restaurant along the way. Over time, Eleanor can learn the tastes and preferences of regular passengers and predict their desires.

Passengers will sit on silk upholstery in a cabin outfitted with rare Macassar ebony trim and hand-twisted silk carpeting.

This is Rolls-Royce's first true concept car, Rolls-Royce spokesman Andrew Ball said. The British luxury automaker has created "experimental" cars before, but this is the first time designers have created something as purely fanciful as this.

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