I have to admit that I’m a sucker for any car company that references R2-D2 in their press release, but I think I’d be a fan of the new Rinspeed Oasis concept even if they released a totally droid-less statement to the world. That’s because this car shows they understand the coming autonomous world better than almost anyone.
While companies like Google are doing a lot of remarkable work on the technical side of autonomous vehicles, so far it doesn’t feel like anyone is really thinking about how we’ll live with and use these autonomous cars when we actually have them. Google’s car has no controls, but other than that, on the inside, it’s still just forward-facing seats in a box, like any other car. When you’re inside, you just kind of hang out! Rinspeed’s Oasis seems to be doing a lot more.
First off, you’ll notice the Oasis is a one-box, van-like vehicle. I’ve long believed a van-like vehicle makes the most sense for an autonomous vehicle, because once you’re freed from the job of driving, a car will really become a mobile room-on-wheels. And Rinspeed seems to have figured that out.
While it’s just a two-person city car, there’s a lot of room inside the Oasis. Here’s what they describe:
The interior offers a new living space with the ambience of a modern-day family room: armchair, sideboard, TV, and a multifunctional steering wheel, of course. The windshield also serves as a screen for virtual as well as augmented reality.
I suppose the presence of a steering wheel (though it looks like it doubles as a little dining table) means a human can drive it if needed, so that’s good. But when you’re not driving, armchairs and a little table make a hell of a lot of sense. The windshield as big augmented-reality screen is typical show-car techno-goofiness, but who knows? If the windshield can become a screen, you can be sure as hell people will use it that way.
I think, though what makes me most taken with Rinspeed’s approach is what’s suggested in this part of their release:
Rinspeed boss Rinderknecht has designed and equipped the vehicle in a way that keeps all conceivable options open in a society willing to share its goods sensibly. “Oasis” can be commuting or shopping car in the morning, act as a “micro delivery vehicle” for urban parcel services in the afternoon, and be a pizza taxi on the evening drive home. This is made possible by a clever code-protected “drawer” in the rear, which can also be cooled or heated as needed. Why move only people in an innovative way with disruptive technology and not also small consignments (at the same time)?
Autonomous cars will be the first actual robots that will be deployed into society in any real quantity, and the idea that they’ll be useful for just one thing is just us stuck thinking about robots as cars.
When they can drive themselves, they can do things for you! The inclusion of that heated/cooled/multipurpose, code-activated cargo drawer is very smart, because it means the car has a secure way to do your errands.
You order food, send the restaurant the drawer code, send the car to get the food, the restaurant can securely load it while all your stuff inside the car remains safe. Brilliant!