Autonomous driving has consistently made headlines throughout 2013, with car companies showcasing development vehicles and detailing individual components that will help usher in the era of the self-driving car, like adaptive cruise control and self-parking systems. But, if they really want to get us excited about autonomous technology, what they should be doing is showing us a clear vision of what all those technologies are leading to: a car that drives itself while you drink your coffee and read the paper as if you're still in your recliner at home. That's the tack automotive think tank Rinspeed has taken with its new XchangE concept car.
Rinspeed has a long history of revealing forward-thinking concepts at the Geneva Motor Show, most recently the microMAX urban vehicle and Dock+Go expandable car. Now it has turned its attention to the frontier of autonomous driving.
"So far hardly anyone has taken this to its logical conclusion from the perspective of the driver," explains Rinspeed chief Frank 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."
We were intrigued by what Zoox had to say on the matter, and it's nice to see someone else weigh in. Rinspeed leaves the actual self-driving technologies to the auto manufacturers, focusing entirely on the user experience.
The XchangE electric touring sedan's cabin includes two rows of two seats. The front seats can either face forward traditionally or spin around to face the rear seats. The seats themselves are inspired by the comfortable, adjustable seats you'd expect to find in the business class of an airplane. From the looks of it, the front seats feature enough reclining to put you in near-prone position.
As tempting as it may be, not everyone will have the desire or ability to take a nap during the ride. The XchangE also includes a multimedia system for listening to music, surfing the Web, watching video content and playing games.
The XchangE appears to be conceived as a car that could completely drive itself from point A to B, but it is equipped with a steering wheel, presumably so the occupants can take over driving duties if they choose.
"And to make sure the steering wheel is not a hindrance, it can simply be "parked" in the middle of the dashboard, courtesy of state-of-the-art 'steer-by-wire' technology that can also be found on modern jet aircraft," says Rinspeed.
That's all Rinspeed has to say about the new concept for now, but hopefully it will have more information as Geneva's March 4 press opening approaches.