This has been a historic week for Rolls-Royce with the introduction of a new model and their first-ever SUV. The Cullinan has been teased for years now, but we’ve finally had a chance to see the car. Named after the largest diamond ever discovered, one which now resides in the British Crown Jewels, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is the brand’s first-ever SUV. Actually, Rolls would rather have you call it a high-bodied, all-terrain luxury car.
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It’s also a car that will continue to have a chauffeurs, giving its owner a true Rolls-Royce experience. So while Rolls-Royce looks set to join other automakers in moving to powertrain electrification, it is taking a more cautious approach when it comes to autonomous driving.
CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös said the company will probably skip the early, partial stages of robotic driving and wait for the arrival of full hands-off capability.
“As you know, we are part of BMW Group, and BMW is investing big money into autonomy,” he told Car and Driver. “For that reason, we are able to take that technology whenever it is ripe for our customers. It’s important to understand that not just many but all of our customers do have chauffeurs, if not permanently employed then somebody they can call and say, ‘Bring me to the opera tonight,’ or ‘Drive me and my friends to the restaurant.’ That is not a problem. And we will only bring autonomy into our cars if it is truly effortless.”
Furthermore, Rolls-Royce’s head of global communications, Richard Carter, says that you still need to have a driver for the periods when the car can’t pilot itself: “You can’t be in the ridiculous situation of having a chauffeur who is coming along for the ride and is just sitting there waiting for the end of the motorway.”
Yet, Rolls is still a company that looks towards the future. “We are truly interested in autonomous driving,” Müller-Ötvös said, “but at a stage where it is truly effortless. It doesn’t make sense as some in-between solution. Our customers would not have patience for that.”
For now, we will just have to sit back and enjoy the luxury of the Cullinan piloted by a driver.