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God bless Rinspeed. The mad, possibly certifiably insane, Swiss car tuner and maker has built some wild concepts over the years, but nothing quite so odd as its latest concept car, the Snap. Set to be shown in public for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, in January, the Snap is an automated electric pod. Or rather, a series of pods. Or rather, a pod which can change its top half depending on what you need it to do, or even on how old the drivetrain package has become.
The idea, according to Rinspeed, is to separate out the living and using half of the Snap from the bit that does the driving. Why? Because the living and using part has a theoretically longer lifespan than the driving bit, with its batteries and operating software and hardware that rapidly goes out of date.
According to Rinspeed, "the skateboard carries the durable mechanical and the fast-ageing IT components. They are recycled after a few years of intensive use once they have reached the end of their design life, while the much less stressed pod is able to remain in service for much longer, before it also must be sent to recycling. This benefits the environment, because it plays a significant role in conserving natural resources. Almost as an aside, the innovative Swiss solve a problem that many know from the navigation systems in their own vehicles: they no longer find the way, because software and map data are outdated. What is merely annoying here can quickly become a safety issue in self-driving cars in the near future."
So, the bottom or top half of the Snap can be swapped out, either to fit a bottom half with more up to date batteries or electric motors, or a top half better suited to your needs. According to Rinspeed: "it can be anything from a variable shopping pod or a spacious camping pod to a cozy cuddling pod and even provide a breathtaking, fully connected user experience for the occupants of the passenger cabin. The sky is here the limit for the possible applications."
Although Rinspeed hasn't yet mentioned a one-charge range for the Snap, the pod will apparently 'turn on a dime' thanks to steerable axles, with integrated hub-mounted electric motors, supplied by ZF.
The Snap is absolutely stuffed with tech. The sophisticated Lidar sensors from Ibeo in Hamburg ensure that obstacles on the road are detected by means of real-time measurement of the light reflections. The Harman Autonomous Drive Platform that is part of the skateboard makes safely moving through city traffic possible. It uses the NXP BlueBox, a sensor fusion solution. In turn, the Smart Antenna, jointly developed by NXP and Harman, ensures safe communication to the world outside as well as a high-speed connection to the Harman Ignite Cloud Platform. With 5G, Car2X, radio tuner, BT, and WiFi, it covers the entire spectrum of wireless networking possibilities.
For the occupants, there are individual touchscreens for information or entertainment, while the front and rear windscreens are used by the on-board systems to communicate with other road users, flashing up messages such as 'Right of way granted' or 'Caution, children.'
Rinspeed is also taking its customers' privacy very seriously. Because the Snap is designed to be shared by many users, there are three levels of security for its systems, all tested by German standards agency Dekra. First off, you use a key-like fob to open up and access the Snap. Once inside, facial recognition tech opens your own personal preferences and settings, while if you want to let the Snap access your health data, then there's a third level of biometric security. Speaking of health, the Snap's interior lighting system, developed by Osram, uses ultra-violet lights to kill off any bacteria on the inside.
Oh, and there's even an on-board robot companion. Seriously. Rinspeed says that: "there is even a 'personal assistant' in the form of an autonomous, intelligent robot to accompany the occupants. It will also be happy to help with running errands, carrying purchases, or handle other tedious tasks."
Likelihood of production? Probably pretty slim, but as ever Rinspeed (and this is why we love them so much) there's a certain amount of shooting for the moon that might be picked up by others.