A sneak peek at tomorrow's automated electric car

Posted by Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling

How might it be possible to improve upon the already popular, tech heavy Tesla Model S electric sedan? Turn it over to creative auto concept designers Rinspeed. This outfit, which has turned out some rather interesting designs over the years, is taking to the Geneva Motor Show later this year with XchangeE, an autonomous driving design idea.

Rinspeed is just the tip of the iceberg of who’s behind this rather interesting electric car concept, with some 24 total partners and suppliers having taken part.

All those who participated took a collective shot at answering the question of “how will the interior of a vehicle have to be designed to let the now largely unburdened driver make optimal use of the gain in time?” The idea here is, with full autonomous driving, that those in the car, no longer having to worry about traffic issues, now can focus on other concerns.

The XchangE, engineered by 4erC and built at Esoro, is thus the answer to this question, at least according to Rinspeed in this rather lengthy description. It says the vehicle

“features all-new seats reminiscent of the relaxing business-class seats of major airlines. The basic idea behind the seats that offer a host of adjustment, tilting and swiveling options comes from Otto Bock Mobility Solutions, arguably the most renowned manufacturer of medical prosthetics worldwide. This results in more than twenty possible seating arrangements – a world record. The futuristic TRW steering wheel with hands-on recognition, drive-mode-manager display in the rim and transparent multifunction keys with ambiance lighting can simply be “parked” in the middle of the instrument panel together with the innovative lightweight steering column with bionic design from Georg Fischer Automotive. This feat is made possible by the multi-redundant “steer-by-wire” technology developed by Swabian Company Paravan, similar to what can be found on modern jet aircraft. It is therefore no wonder that the smart automotive visionary with a wink negates the famous advertising slogan that has become a popular phrase: “Not even flying is better from now on!”

image via Rinnspeed

image via Rinnspeed

Passengers will be able to assume virtually any seating or resting position when traveling in a fully autonomous vehicle in the future, which will require a completely new operating and display concept. It is supplied by infotainment specialist Harman. The new concept uses the manufacturer’s all-new next-generation scalable infotainment platform, which is based on HTML5 and provides comprehensive protection against hacker attacks. In the “XchangE” it offers numerous functions for navigation, entertainment, assistance and services that are displayed on a total of four screens. A 1.2-meter-wide display strip in the steering-wheel support provides important information in wide-screen format. A 32-inch 4K monitor in the rear transforms the “XchangE” into a highly comfortable on-demand UHD movie theatre on wheels. It is controlled with simple gestures.

Of course the “XchangE” is also fully networked with the outside world. The in-car consolidation of real-time sensor data that is crucial for “Car2X” communications is handled by the infotainment system, which communicates with the Cloud via an integrated LTE module. Deutsche Telekom and its fast LTE network provide the secure data transmission. All incoming vehicle data – from the Harman infotainment system and other vehicle systems – are compiled and analyzed on a standardized “Business-to-Car” platform of Deutsche Telekom. The intelligent links to numerous other online data sources thus create travel-specific Cloud services such as warning messages or recommendations on route and driving profiles, which are available to all road users in real time. The more vehicles and service providers are networked via the manufacturer-independent “Business-to-Car” platform, the more everyone traveling by car benefits from added safety and convenience.

An intelligent access control system that uses RFID technology to identify the authorized driver or drivers switches on the essential functions of the “XchangE“. It comes from the parts portfolio of forklift manufacturer Linde Material Handling. As on the company’s forklifts and other materials handling equipment, the technical signals from the sensors and the vehicle control system are compiled by the “connect:” data-logging unit and transmitted continuously to the Cloud via the T network. The software of the “connect:” unit makes it possible to analyze all operating data and generate reports, for example for fleet operators.

The avant-garde interior concept developed by Strähle+Hess ensures a unique feel-good atmosphere. It is made of textiles whose blue and gray gradations create a maritime flair. These calming colors reinforce the relaxation effect while traveling in the “XchangE”. The focus of the textile development was in particular on the touch and feel of the fabrics, and the raw materials were selected to individually tailor their characteristics to the various comfort zones. Natural resources such as Merino wool and silk were also used, which were processed by Schoeller spinning mill from Bregenz, Austria. As a result there are intelligent yarns in the intelligent car.

image via Rinnspeed

image via Rinnspeed

The revolutionary Plexiglas roof from Evonik Industries ensures a striking appearance. It features “Radiant” surface coating and shimmers in all colors of the rainbow. 358 individually controlled LEDs in the “EndLighten” headliner and another 98 in the instrument panel create an individual feel-good atmosphere. This innovative LED technology was supplied by Swiss Company Weidmann Plastics Technology. Numerous additional Plexiglas elements in front and rear fascia, rocker panels and rear spoiler, which were all created by refinement specialist Mansory, are also supplied by Evonik chemicals group. They were processed and hardened and tempered by KRD in Geesthacht before being mounted using adhesives and sealants from Sika. A high-end PTC heater from Stuttgart-based system partner and source of inspiration Eberspächer ensures cozy warmth.

Towering above everything in the moveable steering column is the world’s arguably most expensive watch winder. Swiss watchmaker Carl F. Bucherer has implanted its Patravi TravelTec wristwatch in a transparent globe. When the car is stationary, the globe spins driven by an electric motor and in the process winds the mechanical watch movement!  Crazy, playful, but somehow also ingenious and wickedly expensive.

The “XchangE” – as a Tesla evolution – is sitting on 20-inch Borbet highest-quality alloy wheels with glistening “Reflectic” finish is a true eye-catcher. However, Swiss Company Regus Management and Research focuses on the more “inner values” of the “XchangE” as an office on wheels. The specialist for office rental maintains 1,800 locations in more than 100 countries and develops new business opportunities. The company definitely sees potential for using the “XchangE” as a mobile office and traveling conference center. For this conclusion it can draw upon a study by Düsseldorf-based consulting agency A.T. Kearney Consultants, which examined the changes to the digital society that will be affected by autonomous driving in the future.

You can read, listen to music, surf the web, play games and watch movies in brilliant picture and sound quality. Or you can hold a four-party meeting at 120 km/h and work on your files while brewing a fresh cup of Italian Amici espresso. The creators of the “XchangE” are certain that autonomous driving will actually make individual travel even more attractive compared with traveling by train, plane or long-distance coach.”

And that is the XchangE. A very unique concept that will be showcased in Geneva early next month. Maybe Tesla will drop by and take some notes.

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling