On being Autonomous: It should be Rolls-Royce
I like shape. I really like subtle shape. Little curves and angles used like a garnish on what would be a perfectly fine shape without. Tiny details are indulgent, they are what makes one watch cost $50 while another fetches $50,000. There are limits to these subtle little shapes and how they are applied. The Type-R or the C8 comes to mind when thinking about cars that took every small detail in existence and glued them on just because. Then there are more delicate applications such as what Rolls-Royce does with its stable. The cars themselves epitomize ostentatiousness, yet all of the specific details are very understated and restrained.
Rolls-Royce is all about the little details. The signature bits that make each one of their vehicles worth every penny of their tremendous admission fees. Need an umbrella? It’s in the door as you exit, madame. Need a champagne? Open any binnacle, sir. They are all refrigerated and fully stocked at all times. Want to take the Cullinan on a pheasant hunt? There’s no need for that, your honor. The finishing team anticipated this and stocked the built-in walk-in cellar under the passenger seat full of various game birds. Basically, all Rollers are chock-full with wonderful things to touch and look at.
Which makes it a shame that you have to drive them. Without looking, I’m pretty sure that Rolls-Royce is the most chauffeured brand on earth, even though according to Rolls-Royce, that number is shrinking. More and more owners are choosing to pilot their land yachts, which of course is an unfortunate life choice. You see, what Rolls drivers need to be doing, is insisting that Rolls-Royce develop the worlds first fully autonomous vehicle. Not just something that will keep its lane for a while and stops under its own accord, but a properly autonomous affair with captains chairs that swivel and such.
Yes, this would impact the shrinking chauffeur industry, but I think for the better. Automating Rolls-Royce would lead to a boom in the personal valet industry, in fact. While there would no longer be a need for someone to drive the vehicle, a Rolls owner most certainly shouldn’t be expected to serve their own champagne from their refrigerated binnacles. It’s unthinkable that anyone of a specific distinction would have to source their own plate of fatted goose-liver pate and toast points. With a quick swivel, the Rolls owner could be mollycoddled by their in cabin valet to the point they forget they still have their facilities.
It’s not like anyone is buying a Roller for the driving experience anyway. You buy a Rolls because it’s a Rolls. Nothing on earth says I am better than you like a Rolls-Royce. Everyone knows a Rolls when they see one, and that is why you buy one. A Rolls owner gets to bathe in luxury, refinement, and peace while everyone else has to turn their NPR up a bit to cover all the road noise. In a fully self-driving version, however, there is no limit to the importance said owner gets to shower over the common bystander or Bentley owner.
I don’t think anyone would mind, either. An autonomous Rolls-Royce is the zenith of what we ordinary people can dream up as the ultimate statement in luxury. Only properly jealous, small-minded people can look at the pinnacle of anything and scoff. Getting to see one of these hypothetical vehicles in the streets would be as shocking and exciting as seeing Itzhak Perlman busking on a street corner in Iowa. As joyous and confusing as noticing the Starbucks down the block has the original Girl with a Pearl Earring hanging above the toilet. A rolling masterpiece filled with what I presume are people who smell very good. None of whom are driving. All we have to do is observe and enjoy. All Rolls-Royce has to do is build it.