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OK, it looks like a miniature railway carriage but, as always, there's method in Frank Rinderknecht's madness. This is the eccentric Swiss innovator's 'next big thing', to be presented at the 2013 Geneva motor show.
But Rinspeed's latest take on next-generation urban transport is more than a car - it's an app-based system, intended to merge personal and public transportation on a shared basis, like a cross between Smart's car2go and a minibus taxi.
Rinderknecht explained: “Today's ride-share centres are web-based or smartphone-based - they operate in real time: You need to go to work every morning - or you need to go somewhere right now - just go online and almost instantly you can find somebody who's going your way and can give you a ride.”
And this clever electric box on wheels, he says, is the ideal vehicle for that sort of short-distance car-pooling.
“THE CAR TO GO WITH THE APP”
The MicroMax is only 3.6 metres long - the same as a Mini - but it's 2.2 metres tall, so there's plenty of space for a driver and three passengers on comfortable, upright seats, as well as a baby stroller or shopping trolley.
Rinderknecht even postulates 'toolbox' or 'delivery trolley' modules - standardised on the outside, custom-fitted inside - for the cargo space, so that tradesmen, sales reps or couriers could use ride-sharing to get to their clients.
The vehicle also has a coffee machine, a fridge for cold drinks and unlimited internet connectivity for entertainment or working on the move.
GET A RIDE ANYWHERE, ANYTIME
Rinderknecht says the way to encourage ride-sharing is to make it utterly simple, cheaper and more convenient than calling for a taxi.
Unlike buses, which have fixed routes, or trains, which only run where there are tracks, ride-sharing vehicles can go anywhere there's a road - and for every 'fellow-traveller' you pick up, that's one less car on the road with just one person in it, less strain on the environment, fewer traffic jams - and the owner of the car gets his travelling costs subsidised by his passengers.
Now that's what we call a win-win situation.