The future of urban mobility will not be static. If Rinspeed has anything to do with it, it will be modular.
The Swiss mobility think tank has spent almost three decades designing fantastical cars of the future. And, its latest effort aims to cover all of our everyday needs—part workspace, part taxi, part delivery service, part professional assistant.
The microSNAP is an autonomous electric vehicle, just 2.6m in length, made up of a ‘skateboard’ (chassis) and a removable pod. It looks like a bit like two neatly stacked Tetris pieces, with an added metallic sheen.
When styled as a car, the microSNAP has got every technological innovation imaginable:
- Retinal scanners
- Dimmable windows
- Blockchain-powered access, validation and logging
- A 49-inch LED screen
- Technology to create “separate sound zones,” allowing passengers to “listen to different music or entertainment programmes at the same time without either feeling disturbed.”
As a delivery robot, the vehicle can be put to any use—as a refrigerated container to carry medical supplies to a pharmacy, or a simple box to pick up and deliver food orders from a supermarket.
This is the true power of the microSNAP: The same vehicle base can be used to power the car all day, as it spends the first few hours as a taxi, then switches pods to ferry food across the city, then switches again to become a laboratory assistant.
Rinspeed and the robot station
Central to Rinspeed’s latest creation is the fully autonomous robot station, which can join and separate the chassis and the pods. The company stresses that within “two blinks of an eye,” the skateboard and pod combination can enter the garage and switch from a fridge to a taxi to a bike rack.
“Any combination is possible. It’s all about personal comfort,” an explanatory video says.
The company adds that the microSNAP is a reaction to our changing delivery needs in recent years. A solitary truck that doles out packages one by one is no longer enough. The world is demanding small autonomous vehicles that can come directly to the people who order them, for whatever the demanded purpose.
Other companies are also innovating in the delivery space. Boxbot is a self-driving truck that aims to revolutionise the last mile of package delivery through a modular packaging system. Serve, a delivery robot created by Postmates, is a smaller delivery robot that uses cameras and light detection to navigate pavements.