Rinspeed sees a future of skateboard-like chassis carrying any number of pods for personal or commercial uses. Tom Murphy reports.

Forward-thinking companies seem to be coming to the same conclusion about what type of vehicle architecture is best suited for the age of self-driving cars achieving Level 5 autonomy, without the need for a steering wheel.

Automotive traditionalists with a deep appreciation for dramatic designs, taut sheet metal and steeply raked windshields to convey speed and motion may roll their eyes when they see images of Rinspeed’s Snap or Toyota’s e-Palette – two remarkably similar concepts unveiled on the same day here at CES.

The principle is a rolling chassis, increasingly referred to as a “skateboard” because it incorporates the wheels, drivetrain components (most likely electric) and much of the sensors and intelligence necessary for navigating specified routes without anyone at the tiller.

The skateboard would then act much like the undercarriage of a freight train, with the ability to load various cargo containers, generally the same dimension but every one of them hauling something different. General Motors advanced a similar concept with its AUTOnomy and Hy-wire fuel-cell platform 15 years ago.

The vision is shared by Frank Rinderknecht, CEO, founder and chairman of Rinspeed, a Swiss company that has delivered dozens of disruptive concepts (as well as viable products, such as controls mounted on steering wheels) for most of its 40 years. This article first appeared in WardsAuto.

TU-Automotive Detroit 2018

06 Jun 2018 - 07 Jun 2018, Novi, USA

With 150 speakers, a 200,000 sq ft exhibition and 3000 attendees, TU-Automotive Detroit is the world's biggest conference & expo for connected & autonomous cars.