Meet Rolls-Royce's crazy driverless supercar and the glass-fronted Mini concept car of the future

 
Lynsey Barber
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BMW has showcased car technology of the future in its Rolls-Royce and Mini brands (Source: City A.M.)

Rolls-Royce has created a super luxury car of the future ditching a chauffeur and any kind of driver entirely while serving the super rich with a robot concierge.

The car delivers passengers to their destination in the style of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" with a canopy roof opening up to allow owners to stand up fully as they exit the car.

The beast of a vehicle - six metres long with covered wheels and a curved behind - ditches the front seat entirely in favour of a sofa-style seat in the back and comes with an AI-powered Siri-style voice assistant named Eleanor.

Unveiled at a global event held in London on Thursday, the Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 is, of course, autonomous, however it may be sometime until it hits the road. The concept car envisions what the Rolls-Royce may look like in 25 years, drawing upon the trends in technology for autonomous cars, artificial intelligence, car sharing and more.

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Executives from Rolls-Royce owner BMW said autonomous technology was still some way off from completly "brain off" driving and was at the first stage of "hands off the wheel, eyes off the road" driving.

Legislative changes and more accurate maps were cited as just some of the hurdles facing a fully driverless car future, while 2025 to 2030 would likely be the years where such concepts are likely to come to fruition.

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Also unveiled was asimilar future concept of the iconic Mini brand, built around a future of car sharing.

The design keeps the typical mini roof shape but replaces the familiar face with a glass panel, ditching the traditional dashboard and letting passengers see the view ahead. The classic dials of the dash are projected on to the glass, while the steering wheel can be moved from one side to the other.

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Unveiling the car, executives suggested the Mini would not be owned, but shared via its DriveNow service. The vehicle, also autonomous, will however be personalised, remembering your preferences whether in London or New York.

It also has an "Inspire Me" button which would take you somewhere unexpected, based on what similar people want to do and your own habits, centred around "community experience" rather than car ownership.

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The German carmaker spoke about the brand would adapt to "more change in the next 10 years than in the past 100" as it celebrated its centenary.

While both models may be a decade away, executives believe there will be elements from them coming to Minis and Rolls-Royce in the next five years.

That includes driverless cars on the roads, though not on a mass scale, said BMW's Peter Schwarzenbauer.

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An all-seeing all-serving Siri-style butler like Eleanor which can book restaurant and hotels or keep on top of passengers' schedules is further off, however, but still an ambition of the car maker.

"With AI platforms, it's serious, but there are still some parts of production technology which need to be developed. We couldn't start working on it tomorrow," said Schwarzenbauer, who also predicted an emissions free future, whether via electric, fuel cells or another yet to be invented technology.

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