DB BLOG: Will autonomy put an end to the supercar

July 2018

With autonomous technology being developed at a furious pace as we head towards a driverless future, will there still be a place for the supercar?

With autonomous technology being developed at a furious pace as we head towards a driverless future, will there still be a place for the supercar?

Autonomy is taking over

In the next few decades, every journey will be linked, and controlled by wireless technology and the Internet of Things.

Even now, car companies are working together on advanced technologies like Dedicated Short Range Communications, a type of Wi-Fi, which allows cars to connect with each other and share data. An advanced version of Adaptive Cruise Control, it also enables cars to travel in convoy at a set distance, something referred to as platooning. If the car in front brakes, those following can react almost instantaneously.

Already, this technology is being used on lorries, with Wi-Fi enabled, semi-automated smart trucks completing journeys across Europe. It’s only a matter of time before this is rolled out to cars.

And then of course there’s Tesla, who are already equipping their cars with the hardware needed for full self-driving capability. However, according to a recent article on Wired, giant carmakers Ford, General Motors and Renault-Nissan are beating the likes of Google, Uber and Tesla in the race to produce the first driverless cars.

The supercar isn’t just surviving, it’s thriving

Logic would suggest that, gradually, with the rise of autonomy, that the supercar will start to die out. However, the current marketplace actually suggests the exact opposite, and supercars seem to be going from strength to strength. Demand for supercars and hypercars, especially in Europe, has never been higher, with sales increasing significantly year-on-year since 2013.

And the car that kick started that trend? The McLaren P1, a car that redefined what was expected of a supercar. All the other manufacturers had to respond, with the Porsche 918 Spyder and LaFerrari quickly following. Surely no coincidence that Formula 1 teams re-booted the market twenty years after the first true motorsport-derived supercar, the McLaren F1, got the ball rolling.

30 years ago, only a few companies would regularly produce supercars, namely Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini. For other car companies, such as BMW, Ford and Jaguar, a supercar was an aberration, a one-off halo model that showcased the best of the company’s engineering abilities.

Now every car company is getting in on the act – even brands who are at the forefront of autonomous and connected cars. Ford is a case in point with the GT. This trend doesn’t look to be slowing down either, with Mercedes-Benz revealing the incredible AMG Project ONE, which will offer a new benchmark in F1 levels of performance for the road and, of course, Red Bull’s collaboration with Aston Martin will produce another equally exciting hypercar: the Valkyrie.

The power of personalisation

One of the key reasons that supercars and hypercars are remaining so popular, is because there is no shortage of wealthy people who want unique and exhilarating experiences, which autonomous vehicles just won’t be able to provide.

On the face of it, there’s the fact that many still enjoy driving and, of course, supercars are a very good investment, with many of them being produced in limited edition runs so that they maintain their value and exclusivity. The P1 was limited to just 375 units, for example, and they are trading at well over their original list price; meanwhile Ferrari Tailor Made is going to produce 70 cars this year, each with a unique livery to celebrate the marque’s 70thbirthday.

But look a bit deeper and you can see that, at the heart of this need for exclusivity and uniqueness, is personalisation. The vast majority of the new generation of supercars and hypercars can be specified with any colour and trim you want (although there are some notable exceptions) thanks to manufacturer personalisation arms, such as McLaren’s Special Operations and Q by Aston Martin. Have you seen the Fuchsia McLaren yet? Not necessarily to everyone’s taste, but it shows how customers really can have anything. At ARES DESIGN, we are happy to leave the car companies and aftermarket tuners to turn cars bright pink inside and out, whilst our focus, founded on our designers’ experience and rapid manufacturing technologies, will continue to take commissioned one-off projects across supercars, hypercars and classic cars for years to come….or at least until artificial intelligence takes over completely!

Dany Bahar