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Rolls-Royce owners prefer drivers to autonomous car

Home James: Rolls-Royce Motor Car Asia Pacific regional director Paul Harris said Rolls drivers prefer a driver over driverless tech.

Chauffeur driver will not be ditched any time soon, says Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce logo2 Oct 2017

ROLLS-ROYCE owners might be among the least likely to drive their Phantom themselves, but company research has indicated that they would prefer to be in the hands of a chauffeur driver rather than autonomous vehicle technology.

While it stands to reason that the most expensive vehicles in the market would be first in line to roll-out innovative driverless technology, particularly given that owners were already inclined to be positioned in the rear seat, Rolls-Royce Motor Car Asia Pacific regional director Paul Harris explained that there is more to be considered before replacing a driver with technology.

“This Phantom, I mean the majority of them are chauffeur driven so it (autonomous vehicle technology) is sort of slightly irrelevant to some of those people,” he told GoAuto at the national media reveal of the eighth-generation Phantom in Sydney last week.

“I think many buyers have a relationship with their driver. In my experience of our client base, those who have drivers, they always talk about their driver, and every time I see them it’s the same person.

“And that relationship with their driver is a trust relationship. And it’s more than driving, it goes beyond that. The driver is there to do things for there, like, for example, top up their refreshments in the car and things like that.

So I think it’s an important consideration.”

Asked whether he thought the human touch element was an important extension of Rolls-Royce ownership, Mr Harris replied: “Completely, yeah.”

Although Rolls-Royce is owned by the BMW Group, which has said it is working on driverless technology, and will no doubt want to match the new Audi A8 that – particular market legislation permitting – can allow the driver to read a book behind the wheel below certain speeds in a freeway traffic jam, the Phantom does not feature such autonomy.

Mr Harris did, however, reveal that a new generation of Rolls-Royce buyers could shift away from a focus on the chauffeur-driver – particularly given that the median buyer age of the exotic British car-maker has dropped by 10 years to 45 years old in recent times.

“Whether that continues in the future is a generational question,” he continued.

“I think you have to look a bit deeper at the way things are going. Maybe the modern generation may be less reliant on that, I don’t know.

“The encouraging thing for us is we see younger people much more interested in Rolls-Royce, and we see younger people interested in the Phantom. I still think (either way) people love individuality in what they drive in, and what they’re driven in, and they love the experience of driving.”

Mr Harris further pointed to the Rolls-Royce 103EX Vision Next 100 Concept revealed earlier this year, which celebrated the BMW Group’s 100th anniversary by showcasing where each of the company’s brands could be within a century, as representative of the potential for a future autonomous vehicle from the brand.

He described that vehicle as “the ultimate autonomous car”.

It featured an electronic chauffeur called ‘Eleanor’ who according to a Rolls-Royce statement was, “Digitally connected to every aspect of her owners’ lives and her surrounding environment, (becoming) their virtual assistant and freeing them of all effort and encumbrance.

“Imbued with her own artificial intelligence, she works intuitively to advise her owners on itineraries, schedules and options before they leave their residence, reminding about appointments and tasks and making suggestions to ease any anticipated impediments.

“She ‘brings’ the car around when her passengers are ready to travel and, whilst conveying her charges to their next destination, helpfully but discreetly makes suggestions and recommendations, briefing them ahead of their arrival so they are ready to ‘perform’. And ever vigilant, ‘Eleanor’ safely delivers her passengers to their destination, having already predicted the situation and surroundings that await them.”

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