Rinspeed has released more information about and images of its microMAX EV concept, now invoking the smart city with its description of the vehicle as "the networked swarm car." The company has released a host of images which give a more detailed idea of Rinspeed CEO Frank M. Rinderknecht's vision for an efficient, space-saving mode of urban vehicle which clearly hopes to catch the eye of taxi operators and parcel delivery firms. It's the interior images that are perhaps most interesting of all.
Despite having grown 10 cm since our first look in December, the microMAX remains compact-ish at 3.7 meters (12.1 ft) in length. The "hitherto unseen spaciousness" that Rinspeed claims the vehicle offers is achieved through the near-standing position adopted by the passengers and the driver, which is now brought about by seats which are rather more like bicycle saddles (and therefore not the most comfortable looking seats in the world). Of course this requires extra height, and the microMAX remains 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) tall. Rinspeed claims this has required the development of a custom-designed seat belt by TRW.
It's thought that the upright standing positions aid the car's "hop-on-ability," arguably making it more convenient as an urban taxi where convenience arguably trumps comfort. Not that comfort is ground that Rinspeed is willing to cede, with the included coffee maker and refrigerator cited as evidence of (superfluous) luxury, though the iPads shown in the images seem to be a new addition. Such gadgetry is a distraction. A much more compelling feature is the floorspace, extremely useful for bag-laden travelers making their way to airports or rail stations.
To aid passenger convenience, Rinspeed envisages a smart hailing system with which users need only enter their desired destination into a dedicated smartphone app. It isn't a stretch to understand that the app could report the user's setting-off point, but Rinspeed implies that an "urbanSWARM" system would allow the intelligent coordination of vehicles in real-time. A taxi truly integrated into the smart city needn't stop there, and could plan routes according to traffic and accidents, coordinate with other transport networks, among many things.
Rinspeed has revealed that the car would use a forklift drive system from Linde Material Handling, and would come emit fake engine noises for the benefit of pedestrians.
Doubtless the boxy look of the microMAX is likely to prompt some criticism, though Gizmag has seen some extraordinary vitriol aimed at the vehicle, judging the car as if it were targeted at comfort travel for the consumer market, which it clearly isn't. Though Rinspeed may not yet have hit upon the ideal form for the inner-city electric taxi, this thought-provoking concept can only further the conversation.