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Rolls-Royce Vision 100 looks forward -- and back -- to 3D-printed cars

As a celebration of owner BMW's centennial year, Rolls-Royce came up with a concept for the next 100 years, with the idea of a fully customizable car from inside to out.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

When Rolls-Royce first began, it produced chassis and engines on which coachbuilders would place a custom-designed body. In this age of mass-production, Rolls-Royce bodies all hold to specific model types, although the automaker allows a great degree of cabin customization through its bespoke program.

In coming up with an idea of what its cars might look like in the future, Director of Design Giles Taylor thinks future cars could employ custom bodies through 3D-printed panels, adding to the already bespoke interiors and harkening back to the first cars produced by the company.

To add weight to this vision, Rolls-Royce unveiled its Vision 100, a concept car that might look like what a future buyer would have customized. It's a radical design, considering current Rolls-Royce models, but retains the brand's presence.

The future chassis is conceived as being all-electric in the Vision 100, with the actual concept car using two 250-kilowatt motors front and rear. Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce, said that an electric drive was probably the first element of the Vision 100 that would end up in a production car, although there is currently no timeline for an electric Rolls-Royce production model.

Given the electric drive of the Vision 100 and the desire to maintain a long hood, Rolls-Royce cleverly conceived of luggage that would automatically push out from the sides of the car.

As Rolls-Royce expects autonomous car technology to be available in the Vision 100's timeframe, the car only has a spacious rear seat, with no front seats. The chauffeur becomes virtual in this concept, not only carrying passengers where they want to go, but also serving as a voice-activated assistant, using artificial intelligence programming.

For the Vision 100's personal assistant, Rolls-Royce chose a personality named Eleanor, after the human model that posed for the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament the company fits onto its cars. Not only can Eleanor reserve a parking space or make dinner reservations for you, but she can also, through cameras looking into the car, let you know if your hair is out of place, according to Rolls-Royce's concept.

Taylor mentioned that Rolls-Royce is exploring partnerships with 3D-printing companies that could possibly supply custom-designed body panels. After receiving the panels, Rolls-Royce would do its own finishing work at its factory, coming up with a completely unique car for each buyer.

The Rolls-Royce Vision 100 comes out as part of brand owner BMW's centennial celebration, in which the German company imagines its next 100 years.