Luxury driverless cars could offer faster routes through cities says Bentley's design chief


The luxury autonomous vehicles of the future might offer customers a privileged "fast lane" through crowded city streets, according to Bentley's head of design Stefan Sielaff, who unveiled a preview of the British manufacturer's autonomous concept car in London this week. 

"Large sections of the human population will be living in megacities in the next 10 to 20 years, which will lead to congestion" Sielaff told Dezeen. "This will only be overcome by autonomous or part-autonomous cars."

"For us of course the question is how a luxury experience is going to happen in such an environment," he continued. "Maybe the Bentley customer of the future is sitting in his autonomous Bentley but he paid for a fast lane on top."

All vehicles on the road would be driverless in such a scenario, with each car communicating to form an intelligent network.

"You could perhaps be in a Bentley club where you pay for fast-lane access," explained Sielaff. "Therefore other cars are moving out of the way and the Bentley is passing by. This could be a part of the luxury package."

Sielaff was speaking to Dezeen in London on Tuesday after presenting the British car manufacturer's future design plans to a small audience of journalists.

Bentley showed a preview of its concept for a futuristic autonomous car, with a single image comprising two large sofas, a holographic virtual butler and super-thin screens positioned below the side windows.

Sielaff joked that Bentley had in fact invented autonomous vehicles due to the fact that the brand's customers had "had chauffeurs for nearly 100 years."

Bentley's head of design Stephan Sielaff
Bentley's head of design Stefan Sielaff spoke to Dezeen in London as he presented the British manufacturer's future design plans to a select few journalists

Several traditional manufacturers are considering how cars might look and work in the future based on the rapid development of driverless technologies.

Google's self-driving car system has been officially recognised as a driver in the US, which could form the legal basis for establishing liability in the event of accidents involving autonomous cars.

Once legal liability is established, proponents of driverless technologies believe autonomous cars will become the norm. Tesla's Elon Musk suggested that the act of driving could be outlawed in the future.

Traditional manufacturers are also shifting away from petrol-powered vehicles, producing ever more hybrid- and fully electric-powered models instead.

Tech-giant Apple is rumoured to be developing an all-electric car too, presenting manufacturers with new and potentially strong competition for sales.

"We should not underestimate what [Apple] are doing because they are trying to find the answers to the questions we are exploring, such as what will happen in megacities and how these cars will be connected to each other," said Sielaff. "On the other hand I don't think we – as a traditional car producer – are as un-flexible as a lot of people think".

"We are able to think about the future and able to do things that Apple are not able to do."

Architecture firm Foster + Partners and auto brand Nissan recently combined technologies including wireless charging, autonomous driving and battery storage to present a proposal for the future of vehicles and cities at this year's Geneva Motor Show.

BMW has also unveiled a shape-shifting concept car with artificial intelligence that can predict a driver's every move.

  • Aaron

    The day my car is autonomously moved out the way for a Bentley is the day I add a bazooka to its roof.

  • neutralizer

    After trying to get rid of net neutrality companies now try the same with roads – despicable.

  • Jan Vlach

    Oh why not to just shoot peasants out of the way entirely? Sure they do not have any important work to do, since if their work would bare any importance they could surely afford a Bentley themselves.

  • Ciaran Naughton

    I just vomited on my desk while reading this article. Let’s give a “privileged fast lane” to absurdly rich people so they can whiz through the city in the back of their driverless Bentleys while being served by a holographic butler. Maybe they should electrify the outside too, just in case a poor person gets too close.

  • John

    Do these elitist people ever check themselves? I guess not, since they are in the business of “elevating luxury”.

  • James Calbraith

    Fast lane to the guillotine.

  • Carl_Elvis

    When Bentley owners’ “fast lane subscription” pays me for my car moving out of the way it might be interesting. I could simply switch my car between different modes: “Normal” and “No hurry” where moving me is possible and I get payed every time it happens.

  • Nicki Theokritoff

    Is it possible that technocrat Sielaff is having a little joke? One hopes that it is just his clumsy German humour but it is probably a serious suggestion. You need to get out of your elitist compound a bit more Stefan. There are more useful and important things to design than ways to monetise tailgating!

  • Zela

    What a lovely and innovative way to rebuild class divides and create better traffic jams. “Sorry, boss, I couldn’t make it to work on time because rich folk kept overriding my right to go anywhere.” “WHAT? JONES! YOU NEED TO PAY FOR THAT TICKET YOU CAN’T AFFORD AND I’M DOCKING YOUR PAY FOR BEING LATE!” Sounds like a super idea to create a war.

  • I clearly recall the scene where the unbearably smug executive Carlyle is killed. Let me show you. Feels especially relevant.

  • O[b]ama

    Manhattan’s Ground Zero is the World Transportation Center (WTC), the epicentre of America’s new driverless-car infrastructure.

    If you search “World Transportation Center” on Google Maps, NYC’s former World Trade Center (WTC) comes up.

  • Kay

    I think there’s a strong possibility this will happen. People don’t kill others because they have VIP passes to gigs or fast-track tickets at airports, so all the posturing here is just childish.

    You live in a Capitalistic country. You benefit from it. Get over it.