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Intelligent Mobility Students Envisage 'Future British' in Collaboration with Bentley

Recent vehicle design graduates from the MA Intelligent Mobility programme at the Royal College of Art have envisaged the future of British luxury in collaboration with Bentley Motors, the most sought-after luxury car brand in the world. Soundscapes, luxury stratospheric transportation and sophisticated driverless elegance all feature in the diverse design visions, which were created in response to the question: ‘What will British luxury mean in 2050?’

The students were challenged to imagine how – in an increasingly virtual and digital world – elements of physical materiality, technology and craftsmanship can be re-framed to create new forms of luxury mobility experience. Dr Chris Thorpe, acting head of programme for MA Intelligent Mobility explained: ‘How do you make tomorrow’s personal journey a unique and meaningful experience, as resource scarcity, urbanism and new disruptive technology like AI influence our expectations? Our students tackled that question when Bentley asked them to create a vision of future British luxury for 2050.’

From the 24 student responses four were singled out as particularly thought-provoking by RCA lecturers and the Bentley design team, who offered guidance, insight and tutelage throughout the collaboration.

Irene Chiu’s design Luxury Soundscapes considers the role of sound in future luxury mobility, with a vehicle that can selectively filter undesirable and stressful sounds, while at the same time allowing pleasurable bioacoustics to remain. She suggests that soundscapes will be a transformative approach to in-cabin acoustics in autonomous vehicles, demonstrating how it could be beneficial to passengers’ health, wellbeing and travel experiences.

With her project Material Humanity Kate NamGoong identified the unexpected and the emotional as qualities that will continue to be appreciated by luxury car customers in 2050. Her design focused on hand-crafted materials and used her previous training in jewellery and metalwork to highlight materiality and artisanal skill.

Dr Thorpe commented: ‘Kate’s work relates to a rich history of British modernist sculptors who worked directly by hand with material to evoke a more visceral, nuanced and spiritual connection to objects. This project challenges the notion of car making process-aesthetics and highlights the opportunity for a more sensory, human response to experimentation with purely man-made form.’ 

Jack Watson took inspiration from Bentley’s near-100-year history of ground-breaking innovation for his design study Stratospheric Grand Touring. His vision of future luxury imagines a scenario where international business travel will no longer restrict where people are able live, as sustainable, luxury stratospheric Grand Touring will be a reality. Utilizing electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) technology, Jack suggests future commuters will cruise the stratosphere making journeys between major cities far shorter, luxurious and completely private.

‘Jack’s concept points to the expanding design space of a much broader intelligent mobility eco-system and explores the truly liberating opportunities possible when one escapes the limitations of road travel’ explained Dr Thorpe.

The importance of elegance and British etiquette are foregrounded in Eunji Choi’s sophisticated and beautiful design of a driverless vehicle for the smart cities of 2050. Her project Elegant Autonomy ‘is all about etiquette in vehicles, and how it has evolved over time – from horse-drawn carriages to sports car – and the way it will continue to evolve in an autonomous world’ explained Eunji. Dr Thorpe added ‘by researching the subtleties of etiquette, manners, behaviour and interaction, this project seeks to understand user experience at a deep level and applies these insights in a way which is both more authentic and creative’.

Discussing the project Bentley’s Design Director Stefan Sielaff – himself an alumnus of the College commented: ‘With this collaboration we asked millennial students for their vision of the future. 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. I enjoyed a wonderful education at the RCA and 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.’

MA Intelligent Mobility places the RCA at the vanguard of the ‘third age’ of automotive design, supporting students to develop innovative forms of transportation – such as autonomous vehicles – and design systems and frameworks that enable people to move through hyper-connected cities. It also provides students with opportunities to collaborate with other RCA programmes, such as Textiles and Innovation Design Engineering, and take part in live briefs with industry partners like Bentley.

Find out more about MA Intelligent Mobility at the RCA and how to apply.