Based just outside of Zurich, Switzerland, boutique tuner Rinspeed has been busy with autonomous driving recently, showing off its vision for a driverless world with creations like the Etos and XchangeE. Come CES 2017, those cars will have a new stablemate, with the launch of the Oasis concept.
When autonomous cars hit the big time, they'll force a big rethink of the traditional interior layout. At the moment, manufacturers are pushing a "driver-focused" environment, where everything is tailored to making the person behind the wheel feel at home. Although it makes sense for now, that approach will likely need some revision when everyone becomes a passenger.
The Oasis is designed to reimagine the self-driving cabin, with a focus on making passengers feel comfortable in a lounge-like space. Although it's a pure two-seater, those two seats can be repurposed in a number of different ways. Along with armchairs and a decorative sideboard inside, the interior is fitted out with a TV, and the windscreen can be used as a virtual or augmented reality display.
Unlike some takes on the self-driving car (which will likely be hitting Californian roads soon), Rinspeed hasn't completely dropped the steering wheel. Instead, a multifunction unit allows passengers to take control when they want to, although there's no word on what's powering the car and whether it's designed to put a smile on a keen driver's face.
Rinspeed isn't alone in trying to rethink the cockpit. Even the team at McLaren, which is all about giving the driver a good experience, is trying to wrap its head around what's to come.
"A whole other angle of design is going to pop up," says McLaren Chief Designer, Frank Stephenson, who spoke to New Atlas earlier this year at the opening of a new McLaren dealership in Richmond, Melbourne. "We're gonna have to have designers who are trained in car design, movable transport designers who are focused on the interior of the car. All this driver focused environment, well, that sounds very selfish. So, there's a whole other aspect of interior design I think that's going to start happening."
Although McLaren is yet to release what it thinks this other aspect might look like, other manufacturers like Mercedes, Volvo and BMW have joined Rinspeed in demonstrating their visions for the self-driving cars. All of them are slightly different, but all of them share the idea that five fixed forward-facing seats are no longer in vogue.
One of the other things expected to change drastically with the introduction of self-driving is the very role of the car itself. When it's not being used to ferry the driver around, Rinspeed envisions the Oasis as a multi-user delivery van, with a code-accessible drawer in the trunk. Forget about a kid on a dodgy scooter bringing you pizza, how about a Swiss self-driving delivery vehicle?
Rinspeed will demonstrate the Oasis at CES in Las Vegas next year.