Like something straight out of a Hot Wheels gift set, Rinspeed founder and mastermind Frank M. Rinderknecht readies to cross the desert landscape in his “?tos” hybrid sports car as he readies himself for Las Vegas and the 2016 CES Consumer Electronics Show early next month.
Long known for his futuristic takes on transportation, Rinderknecht has become what many consider to be the “Swiss mad scientist of the automotive world.” He’s a fascinating individual, and I was privileged enough to interview Mr. Rinderknecht last spring, learning about many of his dreams, stories, and ideas. There is nothing about his design approach that is subtle, and while many feel that his concepts are a bit too far out there, showcasing what is possible tomorrow today is why cars like the ?tos are so much fun.
Let’s get back to the ?tos. Though it started life as a BMW i8, it’s been entirely overhaul to include things like a folding and retracting steering wheel which blends into the dashboard in a matter of seconds. Clever designs like this don’t just look cool, but they also serve a purpose — creating boatloads of space in front of the driver so that they can work or play in a relaxed atmosphere. Pair that with a couple of curved 21.5-inch Ultra HD widescreen monitors that are individually adjustable and an “unrivaled infotainment experience” courtesy of Harman Connected Car technologies, and the ?tos is suddenly less than just a mode of transportation and more of a personal assistant.
According to an official press release by Rinspeed, this system “thinks along, is courteous, anticipates needs, and on top of that provides perfect entertainment, connectivity, and maximum safety.” Destinations, route selection, tourist attractions, refueling, parking, making phone calls, sourcing music, videos, and personal preferences… the list goes on, and with every mile the ?tos learns from your preferences and drastically reduces the number of distracting manual entries by responding promptly via voice commands, gestures, touch inputs, controller, or just the push of a button.
Back on the blacktop, a total of eight HD exterior cameras visually monitor the vehicle’s surroundings, making impressive, 180-degree panoramic views in front and behind the vehicle possible while offering virtual “mirrors” with expanded fields of vision that eliminate blind spots and only displays an image when the driver consciously checks them. In tricky situations such as in parking garages, a “Curb View” is activated automatically, offering a direct view of the front wheels in order to prevent unwanted contact with curbs or other obstacles. In parking garages, this feature directs drivers directly to a previously reserved parking space, and along a route, it displays realistic 3D images of buildings, trees, bus stops, subway stations, and other distinctive waypoints.
A seamless link to traffic infrastructures like traffic lights, traffic management systems, and other cars like emergency response vehicles lets drivers and the vehicle work around obstacles, even before they are made visible. The gaze-tracking system of the ?tos constantly monitors the driver’s eye movements and as a result, the vehicle not only knows what the driver has seen but also what they have failed to see — allowing the custom tailoring of displayed warnings and notifications.
The ?tos is also fitted with an on-board DJI drone, and has a specialized landing platform in the rear where 12,000 individually controlled LED lights can transform this pad into an electronic message board or a visual dancefloor. The drone itself is capable of providing some very useful services, and can do things like pick up a bouquet of flowers for a significant other on the way home or monitor progress from above for added security.
The ?tos features 20-inch Borbet GTX alloy wheels with titanium protective edges, a Corning glass roof and a Gorilla glass drone pad, and the aluminum front structure as well as the carbon fiber passenger cell are all joined together with ultra-high-modulus adhesives. Since the vehicle will make its first big appearance in Las Vegas, Rinspeed went all out and utilized both ceramics and metal alloys, all of which were applied at temperatures topping 36,032 degrees Fahrenheit and at supersonic speed.
Blending natural leather with a variety of characteristics, patterns, functions, and surfaces with equally versatile textiles and piping, the interior of the ?tos offers a “sporty and yet relaxed feel-good atmosphere” with an outline of the San Francisco skyline emphasizing this. Atop the 3D effect finish of the paintwork on the front panel, a mechanical Patravi Traveltec clock from Swiss Manufacturer Carl F. Bucherer sits inside a rotating housing that moves automatically in order to wind mechanical movement, while the camera integrated into the clock itself pans directly toward the driver or passenger during video calls. While polymer specialist Rehau developed the innovative dashboard support and the bracket for the luggage shelf/detachable umbrella holder, an efficient electrical heating system from Eberspächer provides a cozy interior, and preheats the battery while offering a convenient auxiliary warming function.
Meanwhile, octagonal flat antennas from Vites are integrated into the glass roof for added connectivity, while parking spaces can be quickly located by analyzing real-time data. NXP ensures that the car always has a secure connection, which includes radar and “car-to-x solutions,” as well as automatic payment for parking via NFC, and naturally you will find wireless charging, smart access solutions, and keyless remotes for unlocking, starting, and customizing the vehicle. SIX, the Swiss stock exchange and backbone of the Swiss financial market, offers drivers a very unique spin for “on the go” transactions in the ?tos, by making smaller payments such as tips possible via a brief swiping gesture on the exterior mirror. Virtually all of these operations can be controlled via smartwatch or smartphone, and the batteries of the ?tos have been built to serve as a secondary stationary energy storage unit when needed. Now if it could only tell us where we left the damn car keys…