Image: Rinspeed

Swiss design consultancy Rinspeed, known for the adventurous concept cars it unveils each year, is establishing a start-up company called Snap Motion. It intends to build a small fleet of its ‘Snap’, as seen at CES and the Geneva motor show earlier this year, for proof of concept trials and the development of a support ecosystem for such vehicles.

The Snap is in effect an autonomous robo-taxi which can be used as an on-demand shuttle, mobile workspace or portable personal space: it comprises a skateboard chassis and a detachable snap-off pod-like cabin super-structure. Rinspeed suggests that these pods can be used as stationary pop-up elements in a smart city – i.e. for mobile doctors’ surgeries, or other such specific purposes – as well as for recreational or commercial applications, and that this makes the vehicle both more versatile and more intensively utilized. Business and public service sectors can also be integrated into the mobility sphere, it points out.

“The innovation lies in the fact that skateboard and pod do not have to spend their service life together,” the firm explains in a statement. “Instead, they [could] come together as temporary partners for different periods of the day… the skateboard is always in use. The pods are loaded and used as needed.” The more intensively used skateboard can also be updated, upgraded or replaced independently from the pod.

The intention is now to develop an ecosystem to bring together the software and hardware: a facility in Silicon Valley will develop the software, while another location in Central Europe will handle hardware. “Urban mobility needs further impulses and models as incremental steps to tackle the pending mobility problems in an ideally sustainable way,” explained Rinspeed founder and CEO Frank M. Rinderknecht. “Sustainable is to be understood on two levels: eco-friendly and efficient.”

Contributing partners to the Snap project thus far include Harman, providing its autonomous drive platform with NXP BlueBox sensor fusion solution and smart antenna plus its Ignite cloud platform with 5G, Car2X communications, radio tuner, BT and wifi; Sprint, for networking; NXP for pod recognition and smart access solutions; SAP, enabling the digitized ecosystem; TomTom, for HD mapping; Valens, for its HDBaseT Automotive multi-media signal transmission; MHP, for its marketplace network enabling custom use of pods and skateboards by different service providers; Gentex, for its iris-scanning occupant detection system and dimmable glass elements; and Ibeo, for LiDAR sensors. Harman also developed the Level 5 HMI with a virtual voice-controlled personal assistant, three-level user identification, facial recognition and biometric identification.

-Farah Alkhalisi