What driverless cars are like for passengers

Date posted: March 26, 2014

There’s been a lot of talk recently about self-driving cars, perhaps the most famous example being Google’s Chauffeur project which has made the future a reality after four states in the USA allowed it to test its cars on the road, in public.

How long it will take for driverless cars to be a common sight on the road is anyone’s guess, but the Geneva Motor Show hoped to make the science fiction dream a reality by displaying a few of the automated cars currently in prototype, with an emphasis on what the experience is like for the passenger.

Rinspeed, a Swiss automotive think tank launched its Xchange concept car at the show, which has taken a four seater saloon and reconfigured it into a much more comfortable position than the usual layout for regular cars.

Flexible configuration

The seats can be moved into 20 different positions, which enables passengers to face each other on their journey, or even stretch out into a lounge position to browse the internet and make use of the car’s in-built entertainment system. It even features an espresso machine so you can get your caffeine boost on the go.

Rinspeed’s founder and chief executive Frank Rinderknecht said that the car was designed with the passenger at the centre, not the technology. “I wanted to start thinking about how autonomous cars would move people, and not just in the literal sense.”

The company also partnered with some established Swiss and European brands, including watch manufacturer Carl F Bucherer who has one of their watches implanted into the steering wheel which winds up as the car moves. A little extravagant, and certainly something that can only be included in the concept phase of this car.

Still focus on driving

Rinderknect explained that the Xchange also does not mean the death of driving. “Most driving is boring because you are just eating miles and miles. If I go on the motorway from London to Birmingham, it’s not very joyful. However, if I go over an Alpine pass I will want to drive myself, I don’t want the machine to do it.”

The flexibility of the car’s seating arrangements means that this can be carried out with ease. It was something that Rinspeed focused on with great detail when redesigning the Tesla car that they used as the basis for the Xchange and worked with the global manufacturer of medical prosthetics Otto Bock Mobility to perfect the comfort of the seats.

Rules governing seat safety are perhaps the most rigorous in a car’s design, but the company wanted comfort and design to still be a key element of the design, saying that they used the business cabin of an aircraft as inspiration. “All that braking and going over bumps – you need a seat that will still let you relax.”

Rinspeed is not stopping with this unique concept car however. Rinderknect has his eye on the future and is thinking forward to a time when there will be no road accidents, and cars can even go under water. It may take some time for people to warm to trusting an automated car, but now it seems that it may not be too far off.

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