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Next-Gen Autonomous Fleet Car Will Be Unveiled in Geneva

February 19, 2014

Autonomous driving is set to become reality in the near future. While the major automakers are putting the finishing touches on the technology, the Swiss idea factory Rinspeed puts man at the center of the autonomous car. At the upcoming 2014 Geneva Motor Show Rinspeed will premiere the "XchangE" study to the public, demonstrating how cars will "move" occupants in the near future.

Occupants can become drivers in the Rinspeed XchangE concept by simply moving the steering wheel from the center of the console and back again.
Occupants can become drivers in the Rinspeed XchangE concept by simply moving the steering wheel from the center of the console and back again.

The Swiss company will present its vision in an all-electric touring sedan by the name of "XchangE." It was engineered by 4erC and built at Esoro. The vehicle features all-new seats reminiscent of 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, a worldwide manufacturer of medical prosthetics, resulting in more than 20 possible seating arrangements. 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 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.

The Rinspeed XchangE concept features an infotainment system by Harman. Occupants can work or hold meetings in the same comfort as a business-class airline cabin.
The Rinspeed XchangE concept features an infotainment system by Harman. Occupants can work or hold meetings in the same comfort as a business-class airline cabin.

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, according to the company. 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, which is controlled with simple gestures.

The XchangE autonomous concept is an office on wheels, with all the amenities that can be found in a modern office building, including full Internet connectivity.
The XchangE autonomous concept is an office on wheels, with all the amenities that can be found in a modern office building, including full Internet connectivity.

The "XchangE" is also fully networkd with the outside world, according to Rinspeed. 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, according to the company.

The "XchangE," which began as a Tesla, is sitting on 20-inch Borbet highest-quality alloy wheels with glistening "reflectic" finish is a true eye-catcher. However, Regus Management and Research focuses on the more "inner values" of the "XchangE" as an office on wheels, according to the company. 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. Occupants can hold a four-party meeting at 120 km/h and work on files while brewing a fresh cup of Italian Amici espresso.

The avant-garde interior concept was developed by Strähle+Hess. 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.

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