No, McLaren Isn’t Actually Planning to Sell Autonomous Cars

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In a recent interview with AutoCar, CEO Mike Flewitt said the next generation of McLarens would offer autonomous features. Considering that the closest thing to a practical car that McLaren offers is the still-quite-sporty 570GT, the news of autonomous McLarens came as a shock to a lot of car enthusiasts. But while Flewitt did use the word “autonomous,” he didn’t actually mean that the next generation of McLarens will be able to drive themselves.

2018 McLaren 720S

The first clue that the 720S‘ replacement won’t be some kind of self-driving Waymo-mobile is in Flewitt’s next quotation. “We will be selective,” he told AutoCar. “Autonomy in its own right isn’t that appealing to our customers, but we need to have capabilities designed in for safety, legislation, and emissions.” At some point in the future, it’s possible that only fully autonomous cars will be allowed on public roads, but that’s not happening anytime soon. In context, it sounds like Flewitt actually meant McLaren plans to include features like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and possibly even lane keep assist.

After speaking further with McLaren, we can now confirm that is what Flewitt meant. The spokesperson couldn’t say which features will be added next or provide any sort of timeline, but they did add that even as technology advances, McLaren plans to still keep the focus on the driver.

“All we can add for now is that McLaren provides entertainment not transportation,” said the spokesperson. “We will be as relevant in a world where the routine is managed autonomously as we are now. We see two scenarios in relation to the autonomous vehicle opportunity: our cars can be single purpose in providing entertainment, or dual purpose with autonomous functionality where required for safety or environmental reasons. Ultimately, we will give drivers a choice.”

The McLaren Senna, a non-hybrid member of the Ultimate Series

But while fully autonomous cars aren’t part of McLaren’s future, electrification definitely is. According to the spokesperson, “at least half of our output will be petrol-electric hybrid by the end of 2022. Can’t say more than that at the moment because as Mike told Autocar, we haven’t ruled out non-hybrids too. Particularly in the Ultimate Series.”

McLaren’s previously reported fully electric supercar is also still under development. “On electrification, we have a team studying a pure EV. Conceptually it would sit in the Ultimate Series but there is no news to share at this time and no firm timescale,” they said. “As you can imagine, developing the ‘McLaren of electric vehicles’ is a challenge with the obstacles of weight and range even larger for us.”

So there you have it. The performance hybrid technology that we first saw in the P1 will find its way into future McLarens, an electric supercar is in the works, and the next generation of cars will offer some driver assist features. But a fully autonomous McLaren? That’s not happening.

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