It’s a fact of life: most of us can’t afford to buy Bentleys and Rolls-Royces. But as the way we use vehicles changes, will this change, too?

The majority of people are still buying or leasing their cars, two business models that have been popular for many years. But car makers are expecting that with the advent of autonomous vehicles, people are less likely to own a car and instead will ride-share or ride-hail a car. Uber on a grander, more sophisticated scale.

What could that mean for access to cars that most us could only dream of? Already, on the shopping mecca of the Champs Elyéees in Paris, you can rent a supercar, such as a Lamborghini Aventador, for a set amount of time.

That trend is set to continue with self-driving vehicles, according to Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker. 

Granted, Renault is not a luxury car maker, instead focusing on high-volume cars. But at the Paris motor show, it has shown the third in a trilogy of autonomous concepts. This one focuses on luxury travel and is not intended for ride-sharing: it seats only three.

Called the EZ-Ultimo, the vehicle is intended to be popular with high-end businesses such as five-star hotels or airlines, which would use it to transport people to and from their end destination. The other use would be for ride-hailing via an app.

Van den Acker said: “In the world of tomorrow, you’re going to open an app and order a vehicle for 10km. Renault has always democratised innovation, so we could be the ones that democratise luxury or a premium experience – even if it’s a short one. You don’t have to be rich to live rich. I think this would be very fitting to our values.”

If it has occurred to Renault, it must surely have occurred to more established high-end car makers. They will be keen not to undermine the exclusivity of their cars but nonetheless, in a world where fewer people own cars and more people call for a car on demand, it seems a savvy revenue stream for the future.

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