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Drive or ride? DIY or have a coffee?

2014-03-06 10:23

RELAX, PUT YOUR FEET UP: A driver poses inside the new Rinspeed XchangE concept car at the 2014 Geneva auto show. Image: AFP

GENEVA, Switzerland - Brew an espresso, watch a movie on a large screen, surf the Internet or chat with friends… as automakers steer towards a future of driverless cars, a Swiss think-tank is at the 2014 Geneva auto show to show off its vision of what vehicles might look like inside, when people no longer have to focus on the road.

Rinspeed founder and chief executive Frank Rinderknecht told AFP: "Once I can drive autonomously, would I want to watch while my steering wheel turns happily from left to right? Nope - I'd like to do anything else but drive and watch the traffic.

"Eat, sleep, work, whatever you can imagine."


Google is working on fully autonomous cars; traditional automakers are rapidly catching up with autonomous technology.

With analysts expecting sales of self-driving, if not completely driverless, cars to take off by 2020, Rinderknecht insists it's time to consider how the experience of riding in a car will could be radically redefined.

Showcasing his XchangE concept car at the 2014 Geneva auto show, Rinderknecht says he envisages a future in which car occupants will want to do the same kind of activities they use to kill time on trains, buses and planes.

Rinspeed has revamped the interior of Tesla's Model S battery-car to show how standard-sized vehicles can be turned into entertainment centres, offices and meeting spots – all within a shell travelling at speed.

The seats can slide, swivel and tilt to “more than 20 positions, allowing passengers to face each other or on an 80cm screen in the rear”. An entertainment system lines the entire width of the facia and the steering wheel can be shifted to allow passengers a better view of an 80cm screen.

And there's an espresso machine…

Brewing coffee, video conferencing and keeping an eye on your email at 200km/h may sound like a fantasy but Rinderknecht is convinced it could happen in the not too distant future.

Rinderknecht said: "We think this is what things could look like in a few years. If I have to go three hours from Geneva to Zurich and its congested, I'm not doing anything. I want to be doing something else."


Automakers at Geneva seemed to agree that vehicles that drive themselves, at least to a certain extent, are on the horizon. Hyundai Europe's Allan Rushforth told AFP: "Autonomous driving is an inevitability that we are approaching very rapidly."

He stressed, though, that "full automation" was not a priority.

Ford Europe chief Stephen Odelle said the technology was speeding forward but he believed "the technology will be ready before legislation and consumers are ready".

Odelle asked: "How comfortable will consumers be with fully automated cars?" He added that legislating for liability would be tricky with no driver behind the wheel.

Rinderknecht acknowledged the obstacles but insisted "they can be overcome". He pointed out that fewer crashes would be a major argument for automation; the machines should be far more reliable than humans.

While it would be an upward battle to redefine liability legislation, he added: "I think it can be done because laws must adapt to life, and life as we all know changes."

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 Geneva auto show.
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