Rinspeed, the Swiss company known for pushing the limits of vehicle modifications, is set to debut a new concept at the Geneva Motor Show next month. This time, the victim/vehicle to undergo the Rinspeed knife is none other than a Tesla Model S. But rather than just adding aero-bits and altering the wheels, the company has transformed the luxury electric saloon into a completely new autonomous concept called the XchangE.
Over the years Rinspeed has gained a reputation for its eccentric and envelope-pushing ideas. The latest entry is no exception. The Rinspeed XchangE Concept, engineered by 4erC and built at Esoro, is the Swiss firm’s future vision of how autonomous should be, versus how the technology is currently perceived.
On the exterior, the car is still clearly a Model S, but with obvious aesthetic modifications. A flying rear spoiler on the trunk lid is one subtle difference from the stock model, but aerodynamic tweaks in the form of redesigned front and rear bumpers, a more aggressive grille, plus the addition of body skirts and gold accent pieces definitively give the XchangE concept away as unconventional. Oversized 20-inch Borbet wheels help finish out the visual update.
But where the autonomous fun really happens is in the Rinspeed lounge.The concept’s Tesla interior, which has been completely reworked, is more indicative of a yacht cabin than automotive space. According to Rinspeed, the mandate behind this new redesign was to focus on the mental well-being of passengers and treat them to a space where relaxation and entertainment were the priority.
The interior was developed by Strähle+Hess and, with its maritime blue/gray color selections, is designed to emote a relaxing, lounge-like atmosphere. To make the interior as tactile as possible, the designers chose to work with more natural materials like Merino wool and silk processed at the Schoeller spinning mill in Austria. According to Rinspeed, materials were individually selected to best compliment the car’s various relaxation zones.
The Model S’ seats have been removed to make way for highly adjustable captain’s chairs, that swivel, slide and tilt in order to provide passengers with a fully customizable seating arrangement. The XchangE’s seats take their inspiration directly from business-class airline seats, and come courtesy of Otto Bock Mobility Solutions, a medical prosthetics manufacturer.
The leg rests are designed so passengers can swivel 180 degrees to chat with rear occupants, relax or watch on-demand UHD movies on the 32-inch 4K monitor hidden in the rear seat ... all while the car is in autonomous mode of course. According to Rinspeed, the 20-plus possible seating arrangements are not only good for a world record, but also allow passengers and driver to relax in any number of personal permutations.
Rinspeed also saw the need to make the steering wheel less of an invasive device and more of an integral part of the autonomous plan. Thanks to a movable TRW steering wheel and lightweight column with bionic design courtesy of Georg Fischer Automotive, the driver can now slide the entire unit over and park it in the center position when not in use.
A multi-redundant "steer-by-wire" system from Swabian Company Paravan means that the driver can now fully stretch out and literally let the car do the driving. TRW’s concept wheel also comes equipped with hands-on recognition, transparent multifunction keys and a drive-mode-manager display integrated into the steering wheel’s leading edge.
Rinspeed had Swiss watchmaker Carl F. Bucherer place a Patravi TravelTec timepiece in a transparent globe above the column. The globe, equipped with an electric motor, spins when the car is stationary in order to keep the rather pricey watch properly wound.
Behind the steering column is an infotainment system courtesy of Harman, which runs the length of the dash. This 1.2 m (3.9 ft) strip, based on a next-generation scalable platform and running HTML 5, provides occupants with navigation, road side assistance information and entertainment. Beneath the glowing info-strip, on either side of the steering column, are pivoting LCD displays that allow both driver and passenger to check the web, catch up on emails or link with the office via LTE and cloud-based services.
According to Rinspeed, all critical information and data coming into the autonomous vehicle is handled via Deutche Telekom’s Business-to-Car platform. Travel-specific Cloud services including traffic updates, road closures, route recommendations, and weather conditions are all provided to the driver in real time via an integrated LTE module.
Rinspeed’s XchangE concept is unlikely to make it to production, but the company does expect certain technological aspects of the car to eventually make it to the real world. Gizmag will be on hand to cover the car’s official debut at the Geneva Motor Show, which starts on March 4.