Meet Eleanor: Rolls-Royce’s giant, carpeted, futuristic autonomous car

17 Jun 2016

Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 concept car. Image via Rolls-Royce

Fancy a car that magics up a red carpet for you every time you step out of it? Well, dream no longer, as Rolls-Royce has unveiled the 103EX, or Vision Next 100, the brand’s first autonomous, zero-emissions vehicle.

The bells and whistles included in this luxury take on an autonomous vehicle by Rolls-Royce really do seem a bit out-of-this-world.

Firstly, the Rolls-Royce concept car will be gargantuan, stretching to 5.9m in length and reaching to a height of 1.6m.

Future Human

It will also ship with its own AI – Eleanor – named for Eleanor Thornton, the actor believed to have inspired Rolls-Royce’s bonnet ornament, the Spirit of Ecstasy.

Eleanor will be “digitally connected to every aspect of her owners’ lives and her surrounding environment, [becoming] their virtual assistant and chauffeur, freeing them of all effort and encumberance”. The AI will advise passengers on itineraries and schedules, remind them of appointments and tasks, and make suggestions and recommendations.

Basically, it will do your thinking for you.

Beyond the technology, The Vision Next 100 takes Rolls-Royce’s love of luxury to new heights. Doing away with a steering wheel entirely (unnecessary in an autonomous vehicle), and avoiding the concept of a cockpit, the car will offer unimpeded views for its cargo.

A luxury experience

Panelled with Macassar wood panelling, “clothed in the most opulent fabrics” – there’s a silk-and-wool blend sofa, and carpeted with a deep-pile ivory wool carpet, the interior will certainly be luxurious.

Rolls-Royce interior

Interior of Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 concept car. Image via Rolls-Royce

And, so that the plebs who “wait with bated breath for a grand arrival” can fully appreciate your importance, the Vision Next 100 will do away with the potential for embarrassing ‘stepping out of cars and flashing everyone’ faux pas.

Upon arrival at your destination, the glass roof of the car will lift so you can stand and step out of the vehicle, right onto your own personal red carpet – a red light shone on the pavement from the Vision Next 100’s undercarriage.

Finally, without the need for a large engine to take up precious under-bonnet space, there will be a luggage compartment (stocked, of course, with personalised luggage) that opens automatically on your arrival.

The Vision Next 100 will return to the days of coachbuilds. While the chassis will be consistent through all versions, the body will be fully-customisable by customers.

A step beyond futuristic design

Eschewing conventional automobile design – quite deliberately – the Vision Next 100, or at least this iteration of it, looks more like something you’d find in a Philip K Dick universe than actual real life, but it works.

According to information released by Rolls-Royce (light on details, heavy on verbosity), “[The Vision Next 100] makes a bold and definitive statement of confidence in a future where Rolls-Royce rejects the notion of anonymous, utilitarian and bland future modes of mobility”.

Rolls-Royce concept car

Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 concept car. Image via James Lipman/Rolls-Royce

Slated to hit the road at some point in the 2040s – making this quite a premature unveiling – perhaps the car will seem less out of a place in a world that has, maybe, been taken over by other autonomous vehicles.

Its size may seem less cumbersome when there are fewer cars (replete with actual, real-life drivers) trying to manoeuvre around it on its home country’s back roads. Though, given its astonishing 5.9m length, ease of manoeuvrability might never be quite achievable. Be thankful that Eleanor will be doing all the work.

If Rolls-Royce isn’t your thing (and if you’d like your autonomous vehicle before this century hits its mid-life crisis), efforts from Google, Apple and VW (among others) should be making their “utilitarian” appearances far sooner.

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic