Future classics: Design students forecast 2050 Bentleys

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Elegant Autonomy is the title of Eunji Choi's vision for a 2050 Bentley | Royal College of Art / Bentley images

Bentley had some homework for students in the Intelligent Mobility Program at Britain’s Royal College of Art: In an increasingly virtual and digital world, how can elements of physical materiality, technology and craftsmanship can be curated to create a truly luxurious Grand Touring experience?

The results: Student projects, done in collaboration with Bentley Design staffers, that imagine luxury soundscapes, “stratospheric” Grand Touring vehicles and visions of “sophisticated driverless elegance,” according to the automaker’s news release.

“Bentley has always been at the forefront of automotive luxury, and with this collaboration we asked millennial students for their vision of the future,” explained Stefan Sielaff, Bentlye design director and RAC alumnus. “We wanted ideas and concepts that could potentially lead us in new and interesting directions, using the perspective of these digital natives — from all over the world — to see things differently. 

“These second-year students are the ones who will be designing the cars of the future — the taste makers in training, if you will. That’s why the results of the challenge are so exciting.”

“How do you make tomorrow’s personal journey an emotional experience as evolving culture, disruptive technology and personal desires change tomorrow’s car?” added Chris Thorpe, senior tutor in the school’s Intelligent Mobility program. 

“Our students tackled that question when Bentley asked them to look at automotive luxury over the next 30 years.”

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In other words, “What will British luxury mean in 2050?”

Two dozen students submitted responses, and four of the proposals were found to be “particularly thought provoking by RCA lecturers and the Bentley design team.”

Those four, which “considered the impacts of new technologies and craftsmanship on personal transport, and interrogated what luxury might mean in an autonomous and increasingly sustainable world,” were:

Part of Irene Chiu’s ‘Luxury Soundcapes’ proposal

“Luxury Soundscapes,” by Irene Chiu, considering the role of sound in future luxury mobility with a vehicle that “can selectively filter undesirable and stressful noises while at the same time allowing pleasurable bioacoustics to remain.”

Chiu sees her design as a transformative approach to in-cabin acoustics in autonomous vehicles, demonstrating how it could be influential in passengers’ health, wellbeing and travel experiences.

One of Kate NamGoong’s ‘Material Humanity’ visions

“Material Humanity,” by Kate NamGoong, identifies the unexpected and the emotional as qualities that will continue to be appreciated by luxury car customers in 2050. 

Moreover, she sees true luxury in the future to include the choice to occasionally drive yourself in an internal combustion vehicle while the rest of the world is fully autonomous and electric. 

“With traditional engines becoming such a rarity, Kate imagines that people will want to see the mechanical workings – just as they do with luxurious mechanical watches today,” according to Bentley.

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Another vision from Kate NamGoong’s ‘Material Humanity’

“Stratospheric Grand Touring,” by Jack Watson takes inspiration from Bentley’s nearly century-long history and imagines a future in which international business travel provides no restrictions on where people are able live, as “sustainable, luxury stratospheric Grand Touring will be a reality.”

Jack Watson’s ‘Stratospheric Grand Touring’ design

“Elegant Autonomy,” by Enuji Choi looks at the importance of elegance and British etiquette in driverless vehicles built for “smart” cities. The project focuses on the etiquette of ingress and egress, and on how it has evolved from horse-drawn carriages to modern vehicles, and the way it will continue to evolve in an autonomous world.

To view all of the student submissions, visit the Royal College of Art website.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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