What might mobility look like in 20 years' time? A summary of the BMW centenary event

What might mobility look like in 20 years' time? A summary of the BMW centenary event
What might mobility look like in 20 years' time? It’s all about the “ACES”, apparently. That’s Autonomous, Connected, Electrified and Shared, according to Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board of Management for BMW Group. 

He was speaking to a small group of journalists in north London’s Roundhouse at the unveiling last week of two more Vision 100 concepts for the company, this time from Mini and Rolls-Royce - with the Rolls determined to "define the future of luxury mobility" with its fully autonomous car.

BMW Group has already rolled out its BMW Vision 100 concept and the last one will be the motorbike concept, in LA in October. The quartet provide the aesthetic celebration of the company’s centenary. 

“This 100-year anniversary is not to look back”, Schwarzenbauer is keen to clarify. “This is not what the company stands for. Let’s look forward. Instead of sharing lots of wonderful nice videos, let’s put the technology we think is needed into something people can touch, and use them for further development.”

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Hence two concepts from apparently very different brands, but with two aims in common: personalisation and connectivity for all future cars.

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The Mini concept is all about recognising the owner via biometric data, and reflecting them through a digital skin that beams colours, patterns and logos, while the Rolls-Royce concept can have an entire bespoke body put on the lightweight, fully electric platform (they won’t commit yet to either plug-in or fuel cell technology). 

Fanciful thinking? Not according to Schwarzenbauer. “We’re showing the concept to Rolls-Royce customers tomorrow night and I think we will get orders for this car”, he says, only half joking. “It’s a serious thing, but there is still some production technology needed that we don’t have”, he says.

I also caught up with Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce, standing proudly by his concept. “This is a lighthouse for the brand”, he told me. “I told Giles [Taylor, Rolls-Royce’s chief designer]: “Please free up your mind. Dream it up.” 

Never has a Rolls-Royce designer been given such free reign, albeit with the words of customers ringing in his ears: “We had lots of discussions with them, in terms of what they want”, says Torsten. 

“We told them: ‘you decide the body shapes’”, which is surely taking a bespoke coach-building service to the max; Rolls-Royce simply provide the chassis and drivetrain; everything else is up for grabs, including whether it’s a four-seat saloon or two-seat coupe.

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Does Torsten Muller-Otvos worry that his customers, whose average age is decreasing by the year, down to under 40 these days, will rule the brand just a little too much, their youth jarring with the understated elegance that characterises the marque? “It’s not at all a contradiction”, he tells me. 

“All these younger customers are entrepreneurs and maniacs with detail in terms of what they do in their businesses. They come to us and commission their works of art, and they are the most discerning customers I’ve ever met.”

With both brands attracting younger, more passionate and engaged customers, goodness knows what the generation of cars beyond these concepts will look like, but given the industry’s ability to adapt and evolve, you can bet your house that they’ll be built, driven and loved, and both brands will be in rude health.