The approach of fully autonomous driving must be bittersweet for Rinspeed. The Swiss think tank got off to a good, early start in exploring the vast possibilities of autonomous vehicle interior design. But then major manufacturers started doing the same, and suddenly Rinspeed, known for absolutely wacky, one-of-a-kind annual concepts like the Splash hydrofoil amphibious sports car and iChange shape-shifter, found itself in the unfamiliar position of being just one in a crowd. With the Oasis, it attempts to take back its place as the world's most out-there automotive visionary, throwing the kitchen sink in and reinventing the car as an all-in-one home and garden, detail-oriented personal assistant, amateur biographer, entrepreneur and mobile office.
When we first heard about the Oasis, we figured the name was more figurative – a warm, inviting space inside a cold, lifeless concrete jungle. But Rinspeed has actually revealed that the concept has a tangible oasis, a fertile area dedicated to greenery. The greater vehicle isn't exactly a desert, but it is a cold, barren space that plant life would not typically be found in (hopefully), a space that Rinspeed dresses with a rolling garden that it says is sized for anything from radishes to bonsai trees.
Rinspeed has fun with the figurative "oasis," too. "Urban gardening on wheels as a new trend? A little bit out there? Maybe. But as always, the creation of Swiss mobility innovator Frank M. Rinderknecht is an oasis for inspiration in the otherwise rather expansive automotive wasteland," it writes in its press release.
Oddly enough, the onboard garden might be the simplest, most basic feature of the Oasis concept. Beyond that, Rinspeed branches out into various directions to make the boxy vehicle a tour de force of futuristic multifunction.
One of the promising luxuries of increasingly intelligent vehicles is the artificially intelligent personal assistant. Not only will your computer-driven car take care of all that incessant acceleration, steering and braking, but it'll direct some of its massive computing power toward taking care of your every need, possibly anticipating what you need before you even realize it yourself. Software like BMW's Personal Mobility Companion and Jaguar's Smart Assistant concept creates a bridge between your personal digital footprint (calendar, social media, etc.) and your vehicle, calculating departure times based on your schedule and current traffic conditions, reminding you of items that you'll need for the day, and/or learning to adjust in-vehicle settings around your needs.
Rinspeed takes this type of proactive digital assistance further, its Oasis personal assistant acting almost as a second brain and set of hands. In addition to scanning for information directly pertaining to driving and routing, the Rinspeed personal assistant can pull useful information from your social media, recommending a nearby restaurant based upon reviews from your friends and making the reservation after you give a simple "Ok." And not only will it read social media, it'll post, too, scribing a travel blog to keep your followers updated on your trip as you snooze away from the comfort of your recliner. If you happen to be sleeping through the brilliant sunset just outside those massive windows, you don't have to miss it: the Oasis will snap a photo so you can experience it at your leisure.
The cloud-connected personal assistant is also available beyond the car doors, providing smart home control and other services.
The Oasis is also an enterprising piece of technology that doesn't necessarily like downtime, preferring to keep busy and make money. When it has time between the owner's trips, it can automatically go into car-sharing mode and provide rides to locals. Or it can tweet the owner's contacts to let them know it's available to borrow.
Out back, the Oasis has an integrated lockbox for accepting packages and also accommodating a custom-designed auxiliary power bank for extending driving range beyond what's offered by the 12-kWh battery powering the dual rear-mounted 54-hp (40-kW) motors. This compartment can also be heated or cooled as needed for storing food or other temperature-sensitive items.
Okay, but the Oasis still drives from A to B, right? It sure does, and instead of seating passengers in a cold, uncomfortable automotive cabin, Rinspeed has created a veritable living room on wheels. The garden serves as a sort of houseplant display or greenhouse, and the armchairs, wood flooring and entertainment system with 5K widescreen multifunctional display and 24-channel Harman Kardon audio completing the homey feel. Rinspeed has abandoned the four-seat, vis-à-vis autonomous lounge concept for a more compact, front-facing two-seater layout.
For passengers who would rather work than relax, the steering wheel (yep, that's still there) folds flat to accept a drop-in worktop with integrated keyboard and cupholders, and a full productivity suite with Office and Skype with live translation helps get things done. The passenger can also become driver, using that steering wheel to try his or hand at manual driving, for that old-timey feel, after passing a vehicle-administered fitness and alert test.
The Oasis windshield doubles as a display for augmented and virtual realities, a WayRay holographic laser projection system blowing it up into a large head-up display. The rear windshield, meanwhile, uses technology from Techniplas to display rear lights and serve as a digital panel for the delivery box.
We feel like we've covered enough features for an entire auto show worth of concept cars, but Rinspeed has yet another. A classic Carl F. Bucherer timepiece integrated into the steering column fulfills Rinspeed's decade-old tradition. But even that piece of analog in the digital world has a tech spin, Rinspeed imagining it winding by way of steering motions.
If Rinspeed's goal was to get itself back out ahead of the curve of "weird, wild forward-looking concept cars full of maybe," we think it's done enough with the Oasis to get there, perhaps too much. And we guess that's what being an automotive think tank is all about.
Rinspeed will debut the Oasis at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show next month before sending it out to the North American International Auto Show later in January.
Seven minutes might be more than you want to spend watching video on a fantastical concept car, but the clip below does a good job showing the Oasis' many technologies in play as it shuttles a tuxedo-wearing violinist and punk rocker around town. And if you're interested in learning more about the myriad brands and components behind Rinspeed's latest vision, the press page linked below has more of that info.