Rinspeed XchangE Concept Previews Autonomous Driving Future

With autonomously-driven cars just over the horizon, Swiss company Rinspeed has detailed its vision of the XchangE concept — an all-electric, driverless sedan that effectively turns the automobile into high-class private transport rivaling the best business-class interiors on planes and trains.

Rinspeed has shown a few wacky concepts at the Geneva show over the last few years, including the tiny microMAX carpooler and the Dock+Go stretched Smart car. The XchangE concept is scheduled to debut at the 2014 Geneva auto show in March.

A few details such as the retractable door handles, mirrors, windows, roofline shape, and taillights from preliminary images indicate that the XchangE concept will be based on the all-electric Tesla Model S. Tesla could not be reached for comment to confirm.

While much of the coverage surrounding autonomous vehicles has focused on the technology that will safely replace the need for human input, Rinspeed boss Frank M. Rinderknecht is trying to shift the conversation toward what passenger experience could entail in the future.

“So far hardly anyone has taken this to its logical conclusion from the perspective of the driver,” observed Rinderknecht in a press release. “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.”

The Rinspeed XchangE concept will expectedly sport advanced media and entertainment integration, with one image portraying a passenger at work on a dashboard-mounted computer monitor with a wireless keyboard resting on a tray emerging from the center console. All this, of course, takes place while the person in the other front seat snoozes peacefully in fully-reclined comfort.

More interesting, however, are some of the interior design components dreamed up by the engineers over at Rinspeed. With no need to keep an eye on the road, passengers in the front can rotate their seats 180 degrees to face the rear passengers, making the interior cabin more resemble a business-class train compartment. Additionally, since any manual steering input would be communicated via electric signals, there is no specific need for the steering wheel to be in a fixed position—the whole apparatus can slide on an adjustable track to the center of the dashboard so as to minimize intrusiveness on passengers.

“I am given free time that I can use for myself anyway I please, while the sensor systems and the computer chauffeur me safely and reliably to my destination,” said Rinderknecht.

For more information on the Rinspeed XchangE concept, be sure to check back during our coverage of the 2014 Geneva auto show in March.