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Aston Martin Lagonda Pushes Limits of Self-Driving Luxury

by Nathan Eddy
Legendary British automaker Aston Martin showed off the Lagonda Vision Concept at the Geneva Motor Show this week, the first presentation of the Lagonda brand and an unashamedly high-end luxury vehicle planned for production in 2021.

The fully-electric car, which the company claims has a 400-mile range, features Level 4 autonomous driving, which means the car is capable of driving itself in all normal circumstances and on all recognizable roads.

The steering wheel can move from left to right hand drive according to driver preference and retracts entirely in autonomous mode, allowing the front seats, which are designed more like bolstered armchairs, to rotate 180 degrees to face passengers in the back.

Aimed at the ultra luxury market, the concept car, referred to in a company release as a limousine, features silk carpets, hand woven wool upholstery, carbon fiber trim and ceramic tiles that open and close to alter the ventilation and adjust the volume of the sound system.

Like many of the concept vehicles shown in Geneva, the car takes full advantage of the benefits electric vehicle technology offers -- mainly, more space for passengers.

Because the majority of the car's structural strength comes through its floor, the rear hinged back doors don't just open outwards, the roof sections can open upwards, passengers can simply stand up inside and walk out of the car, or step straight into it.

The company also displayed two 40% scale models of a coupe concept and an SUV concept alongside the Lagonda Vision to illustrate how the design language could be adapted for the future.

For Lagonda, a different brand to Aston Martin, the future is all electric and capable of the highest levels of autonomy, Simon Sproule, vice president and chief marketing officer for Aston Martin, told The Connected Car.

"We have two brands that will both offer autonomy in the future but each will be differentiated on timing and application," he explained. "As a company, we believe in Level 2 and Level 4 but not in Level 3 [autonomy], thus our focus is on how we integrate camera, radar and Lidar technologies onto our cars to support that road map."

For a company that found early success with a series of touring and racing cars, and as a high-octane action star thanks to spectacular chase scenes in James Bond films, Sproule took pains to explain the company's focus is still on the thrill of precision driving.

"We intend to still make cars long into the future where the driving experience is engaging and rewarding, but on that long drive back to the city from the race track or mountain roads, having autonomous technology could provide welcome support," Sproule said.

He pointed out Aston Martin is the only luxury car brand that still offers a three-pedal manual transmission within its range, something Sproule said the company is committed to preserving well into the next decade.

Sproule said although legislation would play a significant role in this evolution of autonomous vehicles, Aston Martin believes as more and more of the technologies that support autonomy are applied to vehicles -- and customers see the benefits -- so the value will be recognized.

"We can't imagine trying to park a car today without the assistance of cameras or audible warnings, yet it took time for consumers to experience and then value that relatively simple technology," he said.

Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.


Automated Driving: How Government Can Help

Governments at all levels have key roles to play in the convergence of the transportation, technology, and infrastructure that will be necessary to enable automated driving. Jeff Stewart, AT&T Assistant Vice President for Public Policy, will discuss several key interrelated policy initiatives: smart cities, small cell deployments, FirstNet for first responders, broadband deployment, and V2X technologies. He will also share how policies can help protect against security risks and help ensure the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

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