Automotive

Rinspeed shows what the self-driving car will be like to ride in

Rinspeed shows what the self-d...
The seats spin around to face each other
The seats spin around to face each other
View 2 Images
The Rinspeed XchangE concept's focus is on the interior of a fully autonomous car
1/2
The Rinspeed XchangE concept's focus is on the interior of a fully autonomous car
The seats spin around to face each other
2/2
The seats spin around to face each other

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.

The Rinspeed XchangE concept's focus is on the interior of a fully autonomous car
The Rinspeed XchangE concept's focus is on the interior of a fully autonomous car

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.

Source: Rinspeed

24 comments
Nairda
Having recently tried a car with radar cruise control I can see the merits of relaxing in a vehicle while the car takes care of the rest. Granted, steering is all user, but was a freeway so not much input required.
My only concern around the design of these fully autonomous vehicles is how seats are able to rotate mid flight, because while seating backwards is actually safer then forward (think baby seats), sideways is dangerous.
To elaborate, I had a nice conversation with a police officer some time back, and he pointed out that a good percentage of road fatalities from broken necks were from drivers looking out the side at time of impact. ie - if your neck is not straight or if the dominant forces are not coming from the front or back, you have little strength in the neck to support the head. Hence broken neck.
So for this design, I hope they are considering incorporating a kill switch in the vehicle such that the vehicle will not start unless the seats are locked in forward or back facing positions. And cannot be rotated mid flight.
Mel Tisdale
I don't think I would ever trust the technology enough to not keep my eye on the road. But there again, I spent many years in vehicle engineering and know just how often the unexpected can spoil a nice idea. Not only that, I am used to Microsoft. Any hint of their involvement and I suspect the 'Blue Screen of Death could all too easily become literal.
I suspect that this technology will develop as far as providing assistance to the driver in order to enable them to drive in a safe fashion, while being available to take over when the technology is faced with the inevitable wtf situation. The first any 'driver' facing rearwards would know of such might well also be the last they know of it.
Let's face it, we know that aircraft can fly autonomously today, yet there are no passenger carrying versions in use, and they operate in a tightly controlled environment where stray dogs, errant children and falling trees are extremely rare occurrences.
Mel Tisdale
Further thoughts to my earlier comment. We live in an age dominated by the motor car. This is most apparent in the urban environment. We also live in an age where life expectancy has risen significantly. Unfortunately, it is one thing to live longer, but another to retain quickness of thought and reaction to be able to safely drive a motor vehicle. As things stand this will result in older people being excluded from visiting places that younger people can do freely.
One can envisage a situation where vehicles equipped with this technology were specifically designated for those older members of society whose driving ability was not up to par for general use, but quite acceptable for urban situations, though I would still not like the idea of the designated 'driver' being allowed to sit facing rearwards. They must retain some function that requires them to monitor the road situation and be ready to act should the need arise, such as being required to drive the wrong way along a carriageway at the direction of a police officer who is controlling traffic around some incident that has blocked the other carriageway.
Another thought is that terrorists or pranksters might just find a way of hacking or interfering with the control system, with potentially catastrophic results, especially if the driver is asleep with his seat in the fully prone condition. The upside is that he/she would be in an ideal position to change the oil in the back axle of the lorry they have just run into the back of, though avoiding the lorry altogether has to be preferable, and they will only stand a chance of doing that if they are watching the road and everything going on, both on and around it.
Bruce H. Anderson
Everyone gets to rub knees. How delightful. But, if mass transit is not convenient or available, an automonous car would perhaps be less costly than hiring a cab or limo.
grtbluyonder
When I want to relax, I'll just take public transportation. The concept of an automobile automatically interacting with traffic, weather, surprise events, incompetent other drivers, and doing so in a stable, predictable,software code and electronics fail safe mode and a safe on road manner is in my view, an engineering fantasy that I want no part of.
Granted, under ideal circumstances, it ought to work. It might even assist safety in white-out situations if the radar detects the speed and presence of other vehicles ahead AND behind, but frankly I doubt it can actually handle this properly as there are too many unmeasured variables.
If you can't or don't want to drive, take a bus, I don't want you on my road, sailing along oblivious to what's happening and when things go wrong, blaming the vehicle and its controls.
D'Bogat
I think the concept of what a self-driven car of the near future will look like has not been really developed. It will lose its rectangular shape and it will be more like a round space with a table in the center. There will be no danger of collisions. Or perhaps it will came in many other configurations, maybe even with a sleeping bed for long trips.
kalqlate
@Mel. Ye of little vision. This is not a concept for a society transitioning from manual to automated cars; this concept is an attempt to show the future where ALL vehicles have already been automated: "So far hardly anyone has taken this to its LOGICAL CONCLUSION from the perspective of the driver."
Sure, there will still be the potential for accidents, but that potential will be FAR less (very close to zero) than when humans are at the wheel. When all cars are computing, communicating, and sharing all parameters, and with failsafes built into the roads "driving" will not be driving anymore; it will be transporting/riding. Even re-routing can be automated. Your concerns are for a transitioning society and unfounded for a fully-automated one. Hacking is a concern, NOW, but hopefully in the era of fully-automated transport, systems will be secured quantum-ly.
Henry Djunaedi
this idea has been on my mind for quite some time now. thanks rinspeed for making it heard by everyone. you need to think a little outside of the box for this concept. and rinspeed's drawing almost a duplicate of my vision, but a little too conventional for me. i don't see why the car should be in a shape of a current car at all. i was thinking it must have a work space or relax area, and more in a shape of a big bubble, like a moving one-room-house. too bad i can't draw.
basically, one just enter the vehicle, say / input the destination, then the vehicle will communicate with traffic controller and decide the route. the person will have the ability to switch to manual at anytime, including kill switch.
these vehicles are perfect for taxi cab, but driverless. the energy will be renewable by itself. if one is about to go somewhere, he just simply order the car, online. the closest vacant car will arrive, and take him to destination. and so on.
for safety, apart from the traffic controller, the vehicle already has tons of sensors, it should be able to avoid accident. today's technology already closing in on that. by the time this tech is implemented, cars should already be very very safe.
for security, well let's just say, there's no terrorists in the future, it's a happy place, why bother. besides, if the state can protect critical system like traffic light, electric lines, metro rail, why should this be any different?
ZGare
I think the first goals will be to just make the cars as crashless as possible so nobody gets hurt, like riding the old model T car ride at Six Flags. It feels like you are driving, by you can't drive off the road because the car is tethered to a rail. And you can't hit the car in front of you hard either. It will be like that but with virtual rails and a virtual pillow in front to keep you back from the car in front of you. My 2014 Subaru with Eyesight has adaptive cruise, and it feels like a giant invisible pillow in front of the car that keeps you at least 1 second behind the car in front of you, all the way down to a full stop if required. Later it could become driverless like a roller coaster, where the operator is liable for any crashes, which will be almost never.
ZGare
I believe the crashless car technology will advance to the point where it will almost be a crime to not have this on your vehicle if it could have prevented a serious accident. Kind of like the commuter train crash in NY. The technology exists to prevent train crashes, and it is is in use in many rail systems around the country. So it is criminal that this train didn't have it.