Self-driving cars are expected to help solve the transport problems in urban areas in the foreseeable future. But Swiss company Rinspeed believes that they can do more and be an integral part of a mobility ecosystem which eliminates hardware and software being outdated quickly. It demonstrates its future vision with the Snap concept car, a 2-part vehicle with a high-wear chassis (skateboard) and durable passenger safety cell (pod).

With this concept, both sections can go their separate ways whereby the pod can even be useful when stationary. It can be anything from a variable shopping pod or a spacious camping pod to a cozy cuddling pod and even provide a breathtaking, fully connected user experience for the occupants of the passenger cabin.

The Swiss mobility visionary uses an ingenious trick to disentangle the different lifecycles of various automotive components. The skateboard carries the durable mechanical and the fast-aging IT components. They are recycled after a few years of intensive use once they have reached the end of their design life, while the much less stressed pod is able to remain in service for much longer, before it also must be sent to recycling. This benefits the environment, because it plays a significant role in conserving natural resources.

With the Snap, the name really says it all because everything fits together perfectly and can be snapped together. The concept car, which runs on electricity, has two steering axles along with the integrated electric powertrain come from ZF. They allow the Snap to turn almost on the spot and of course generate no unpleasant or toxic emissions. The Snap runs on weight-optimized and stylish 7×18 Borbet alloy wheels shod with tyres of size 225/35-18, also optimized to minimize fuel consumption.

Optionally, there can be a ‘personal assistant’ in the form of an autonomous, intelligent robot to accompany the occupants. It will also help with running errands, carrying purchases, or handle other tedious tasks.

To monitor what is going on around it, the city runabout has lots of sensors. For example, an iris scanner is used for occupant detection and dimmable front and rear glass elements (the same sensor is used in the Boeing Dreamliner). The sophisticated Lidar sensors ensure that obstacles on the road are detected by means of real-time measurement of the light reflections.

The “Samsung Drvline” Autonomous Platform that is part of the skateboard makes safely moving through city traffic possible. It uses the NXP BlueBox, a sensor fusion solution. In turn, the Smart Antenna, jointly developed by NXP and Harman, ensures safe communication to the world outside as well as a high-speed connection for telematics.

Harman developed the ‘True Level 5’ HMI, an operating concept perfectly tailored to the needs of changing passengers in a fully autonomous vehicle. The goal of the development: maximum possible individualization paired with optimal protection of personal data. To this end, there is 3-level user authentication, depending on the desired personalization. A token unlocks the vehicle and customizes the displays. Personal cloud content is available after identification by face recognition.

The Snap uses 6 projectors to communicate visually with the outside world. Two of them use the windscreen and the rear glass to send full-colour messages to other road users such as ‘Right of way granted’ or ‘Caution, children.’ Four laser projections on the side windows are used for communication with boarding passengers.

The storage systems, some of which are portable, offer optimal storage space complete with cupholders and a wireless charging system. The portable storage compartment is a truly clever solution while groundbreaking and partially translucent materials are used on seating areas, storage facilities, floor, and as side panels.

Rarely has a concept car more precisely described the problems an entire industry has with the different lifecycles of various car components – and offered an interesting solution at the same time.

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[Chips Yap]

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