Zumicon, Switzerland - If there is one thing Frank Rinderknecht of Rinspeed is good at, it’s thinking outside the box. But with the Snap Mobility concept, which will be seen in public for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas in January, he’s way out in left field.
In any car factory, the magic moment is when the body and the powertrain platform come together on the assembly line and a car is born. With the Snap, Rinspeed has made that union a strictly temporary affair.
All the components that can wear out (drivetrain, suspension, steering and brakes) or that need to be updated on a regular basis - such as autonomous driving technology, vehicle-to-vehicle communication or driver aids - are in a fully automated electric platform or ‘skateboard’, while the long-lasting payload hardware is in quick-detachable bodyshells called ‘pods.
Which means that a Snap with a fully-connected passenger pod can collect you at home, take you to work and be parked there as temporary office space, while the skateboard buzzes off to pick up a van pod, which has already been loaded with the day’s deliveries, from the distributor’s warehouse and start making its rounds of customers.
Mix and match
And there’s no need to take the whole vehicle off the road if the mechanical parts need servicing or repairs - just go online to the Snap app and request a spare skateboard.
Moving house? Get Snap to park a van pod in your driveway, so you can pack at your leisure without taking a vehicle out of service.
Rinderknect says he’s worried that the pace of electronic development will render today’s autonomous driving and safety technology obsolete while the rest of the car has years of life left in it.
With his Snap concept, he says, the skateboards can be returned to upgrade centres for servicing, repairs and new safety software while the pods are still in daily use, and new special-purpose pods can be developed without having to build dedicated vehicles around them.