Rinspeed -- a company that calls itself a 'creative think tank for the automotive industry' -- is no stranger to creating some off-the-cuff concept cars, many of which have been regular features at the Geneva motor show since 1979. But while company founder and CEO, Frank Rinderknecht, has been known to push the boundaries with his past creations, this year’s concept car showcase is undoubtedly the most relevant.
Called the Rinspeed XchangE, the concept provides a look at the future of personal transport in autonomous vehicles, something that nearly every manufacturer is currently working to develop.
“So far hardly anyone has taken this to its logical conclusion from the perspective of the driver," says Rinderknecht. "After all, traveling in a driverless car will no longer require me to stare at the road, but will let me spend my time in a more meaningful way."
Rinderknecht contends that with the advent of this new type of mobility, driver attention can be diverted away from the road towards more self indulging activities, such as surfing the Internet through 4G connectivity or simply relaxing while watching a movie on the 32-inch flatscreen at the rear of the vehicle.
At the core of the avant-garde concept is a new, next-generation scalable infotainment platform developed by specialist Harman. Featuring a total of four screens – including a 1.2-meter-wide display strip behind the steering wheel – onto which navigation, entertainment, assistance and service functions are displayed, the screen functions can be controlled with simple gestures.
The XchangE is based on a Tesla Model S donor car, which was chosen because of its electric powertrain and flat floor. This enabled Rinderknecht’s partners to create a reconfigurable interior compete with seats that are reminiscent of those found in business-class accommodations on airliners.
The seats offer a number of adjustments -- including tilting and swiveling options -- and 20 possible seating arrangements, the most ever in the automotive industry. They are upholstered in natural fibers such as merino wool and silk to enhance the feeling of comfort on board.
The steering wheel can also be moved to the center of the vehicle to free up space in front of the driver. This feat is made possible by the multi-redundant 'steer-by-wire' technology, similar to what can be found on modern jet aircraft, enabling the driver to stretch out or view a screen nestled behind it.
Adding to the cosseting feel of the interior is a plexiglass roof complete with 358 individually controlled LEDs. These can be made to shine in an array of different colors to suit the user’s mood.
With its cleverly integrated technology and sustainability led themes, the Rinspeed XchangE is an intriguing interior concept, and one that could well come to fruition in the not-too-distant future.