From Soundscapes to the Stratosphere: the future of British automotive luxury


Millennial students’ vision of the automotive luxury of the future includes luxury soundscapes, stratospheric Grand Touring and sophisticated driverless elegance. A Royal College of Art x Bentley Collaboration.

Jack Watson_RCA

Jack Watson_RCA; photos: x bentley

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?’ Bentley has collaborated with design students from the Royal College of Art’s (RCA) Intelligent Mobility programme to envisage the future of British luxury.

The students were challenged to imagine how – in an increasingly virtual and digital world – elements of physical materiality, technology and craftsmanship can be curated to create a truly luxurious Grand Touring experience.

Eunji Choi_RCA

Eunji Choi_RCA; photos: x bentley

Bentley’s Design Director Stefan Sielaff, an alumnus of the RCA’s renowned Automotive Design programme, explained: “Bentley has always been at the forefront of automotive luxury, and 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. 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.”

Dr. Chris Thorpe, Senior Tutor in Intelligent Mobility at the RCA, added: “How do you make tomorrow’s personal journey an emotional experience, as evolving culture, disruptive technology and personal desires change tomorrow’s car? Our students tackled that question when Bentley asked them to look at automotive luxury over the next 30 years.”

From the 24 student responses submitted, four were identified as being particularly thought provoking by RCA lecturers and the Bentley design team, who also offered guidance and tutelage throughout the curriculum project.

These academic outcomes considered the impacts of new technologies and craftsmanship on personal transport, and interrogated what luxury might mean in an autonomous and increasingly sustainable world.

Jack Watson_RCA-

photos: x bentley

From Soundscapes to the Stratosphere – The Student Responses

‘Luxury Soundscapes’ by Irene Chiu’s considered 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. She suggests that soundscape will be a transformative approach to in-cabin acoustics in autonomous vehicles, demonstrating how it could be influential in passengers’ health, wellbeing and travel experiences.

‘Material Humanity’ by Kate NamGoong identified the unexpected and the emotional as qualities that will continue to be appreciated by luxury car customers in 2050. Moreover, she suggests true luxury in the future will be the choice to occasionally drive yourself in an internal combustion vehicle, when 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.

Bentley Future British Luxury, Shyamal Kansara

Bentley Future British Luxury, Shyamal Kansara; photo: RCA x Bentley

‘Stratospheric Grand Touring’ by Jack Watson took inspiration from Bentley’s near-100-year history of groundbreaking innovation for his design study. 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.

‘Elegant Autonomy’ by Enuji Choi looked at the importance of elegance and British etiquette in a future with driverless vehicles built for smart cities. The project focuses on the etiquette of ingress and egress, and how it has evolved over time – from horse-drawn carriages to modern-day cars – and the way it will continue to evolve in an autonomous world.

Kate NamGoong_RCA (2)

Kate NamGoong_RCA; photo: RCA x Bentley

Irene Chiu_RCA-GOOD

Irene Chiu_RCA; photo: RCA x Bentley

Irene Chiu_RCA (2)

Irene Chiu; photo: RCA x Bentley

Kate NamGoong_RCA

Kate NamGoong; photo: rca x bentley