Self-driving Lincoln Model L100 concept meant to inspire future...

Self-driving Lincoln Model L100 concept meant to inspire future products

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Lincoln Motor Co. does not plan to launch an autonomous vehicle for retail buyers anytime soon, but its designers have some ideas about what one might look like.

Ford’s luxury brand on Thursday unveiled the Model L100 concept, a self-driving sedan that’s longer than the extended-length Navigator L and powered by a solid-state battery. The concept, not intended for production, includes some wild features, such as a digital floor that displays customizable colors and graphics; a crystal “jewel-inspired chess piece controller” that replaces a traditional steering wheel and acts somewhat like a computer mouse to help occupants guide the vehicle; and “smart” wheel covers that can be programmed to display patterns or other information, such as battery charge levels.

The Model L100 — named for the centennial anniversary of the 1922 Lincoln Model L — debuted Thursday ahead of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where Lincoln is the featured marque. Its exterior design shares some similarities to the recently unveiled Star concept, and designers say the Model L100 will likely inspire their work on future production models.

“It’s like a breath of fresh air for our creative juices,” Ryan Niemiec, Lincoln interior design chief, told Automotive News. “It expands where our minds are going with the brand.”

Lincoln is celebrating its 100th year under Ford ownership and is on the brink of transforming its global portfolio for the electric age. Executives have promised to launch three electric vehicles globally by 2025 and a fourth in 2026.

“Lincoln has been one of the most enduring and stylish automotive brands in the world and in many ways, it is perfectly positioned for a second century defined by great design, zero-emissions and technology-led experiences,” Executive Chair Bill Ford said in a statement. “Lincoln has always been special to me and my family, especially my father and my grandfather. If there is one secret to Lincoln’s longevity, it is the brand’s ability to balance its core values with a desire to innovate and create the future.”

The exterior of the Model L100 features a glass roof and reverse-hinged doors that give occupants easy access to the vehicle. Instead of a traditional EV “frunk,” Lincoln placed a crystal greyhound hood ornament — a nod to its first logo — inside a transparent hood, which it refers to as a “jewelry box.”

There are no traditional screens inside the vehicle. Instead, a sliding center console features the “chess piece” controller than can be moved from the front to the back of the cabin, depending on how it’s configured. The front-row seats can be turned around to create a social setting as the vehicle drives itself.

Kemal Curic, Lincoln’s global design director, told Automotive News his team began working on this concept — previously known internally as the Centennial — even before they designed the Star. He said such projects have benefited both designers and engineers.

“It’s almost like you can have limitless creativity,” Curic said. “With the L100 and Star, we can test ideas and get feedback, so when you see cars down the road, they’ll look even better. We can take a lot of ideas from these concepts, and they’ll end up in some form on vehicles in the end.”

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