In recent years, the Swiss-based automotive think tank headed up by Frank M. Rinderknecht has given us everything from cars with their own pet drones to single-seat electric sportscars that can expand at the touch of a button to seat two extra passengers. And, as the company gets ready to take the wraps off its latest forward-thinking concept at January's International CES in Las Vegas, we look back at some of its best conceptual cars to date.
2009 The Rinspeed iChange
Billed as the first car capable of changing its body shape based on the number of occupants it needs to transport. Usually it's a single-seater incredibly aerodynamic plug-in electric sportscar. But when it needs to carry two passengers, the rear section pops up. The car has no doors and instead access is via the sliding roof panel. And while simply a concept, it was also one of the very first cars that could be controlled via a smartphone.
2013 Rinspeed microMAX
A networked mobility concept that forecast the sharing economy and the growing popularity of services such as Uber. It's a vehicle that uses swarm technology and cloud computing to minimize traffic congestion and to be in the vicinity of those who may need transport and, because of its unusual boxy shape is equally suitable for personal mobility as for transporting small groups of people. It is the same length as a mini but stands 2.2 meters high allowing four people to sit in comfort or for a small group to stand, as when traveling by bus.
2014 Rinspeed XchangeE
Based on a Tesla Model S, this concept was an exploration of how autonomy will redefine a typical car interior, making it more like flying first class, complete with fully reclining seats and wall-to-wall infotainment screens or on-the-go access to the work servers if you wanted to use the car for impromptu business meetings.
2015 Rinspeed Budii
An exploration of the changing relationship between man and machine, this BMW i3-based concept was all about how autonomous cars could still offer moments of driving pleasure, handing the steering wheel to the driver when the road ahead was exciting, or converting that same steering wheel into a table or computer platform in moments of pure autonomy. It was also one of the first concepts to genuinely consider the role of AI in the future of autonomous driving. The Budii was designed to learn from its surroundings and experiences but also from its owner, to mimic the best of his or her driving style and decision making, so that man and machine feel a connection rather than a conflict.
2016 Rinspeed Ʃtos
Another car based on a BMW, but this time the i8, the Ʃtos was notable for having its own drone for flying on ahead and checking the road conditions or for flying off to collect food on the go. It also had an AI powered personal assistant that in time would be able to anticipate the driver's needs and make every journey as stress-free as possible
2017 Rinspeed Oasis
An autonomous urban run-around equipped to feel like a comfortable lounge rather than a car interior. A window box in front of the windshield supports a small vegetable garden while a system integrated into the rear can keep food chilled or hot. The idea being that during the day the car served as a form of personal mobility, but when it wasn't in use could automatically join the gig economy dropping off parcels or delivering hot or cold food.