Rinspeed is known for its outrageous concept cars, and its 2014 Geneva Motor Show project is no different.
The XchangE concept is designed for a future where autonomous driving is commonplace. The company wanted to design an interior that allowed the occupant to make the most of the time gained from not having to drive. Said occupant must be a very busy person.
“So far hardly anyone has taken this to its logical conclusion from the perspective of the driver,” Rinspeed boss Frank M. Rinderknecht said. “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.”
To that end the XchangE, which looks a bit like a Tesla Model S, features seats modeled on the business-class chairs of an airliner. After all, who wouldn’t trade their luxury car’s driver’s seat for something reminiscent of the humiliating experience that is modern air travel?
The seats can fully recline and the steering wheel can be “parked” in the center console to keep it out of the way. There’s also a profusion of infotainment and media options to keep passengers entertained. Rinspeed’s vision is a car that allows its owner to watch movies at 65 mph.
The XchangE is essentially a living room with wheels, but that’s not an illogical way to look at the design of autonomous-car interiors.
If people become comfortable with the idea of letting the car do the driving, they may decide that they want to use their new found free time do the same things they always do: eat, sleep, and go online.
Whether that’s a viable option in terms of liability remains to be seen. For now, carmakers are assuming that humans will have to remain vigilant while behind the wheels of self-driving cars.
Mercedes-Benz’s autonomous S-Class prototype, for example, can drive entirely unassisted, but still requires occasional driver intervention. The technology to make cars independent enough for people to nap in them is still a ways off.