The Rinspeed stand at the Geneva motor show is often the exception to the rule. Here, it is not necessarily the car itself that is the star but all the technology that is contained inside it. The Budii concept car presented by Rinspeed at the 2015 Geneva motor show is no exception. This hybrid-powered vehicle is geared for the future world of autonomous driving and at its heart is a 7-axis robotic arm produced by the German company Kuka.
Not entirely dissimilar to the robotic arms in the multi-axis CNC machines used to produce watch movements and cases, the robotic arm in the Budii replaces the conventional steering column. It can contort itself into various positions, morphing from the familiar driving position to hide itself away (offering the driver more room for his or her autonomous commute) or even act as a table. For anyone crossing the English Channel, the robotic arm also offers the neat function of changing to left or right-hand drive in an instant. But the fact that the pedals remain on the left could provide for some interesting driving experiences.
The idea is that the vehicle can adapt to its owners requirements. For the monotonous daily commute, it can take full control, whereas the owner can take the wheel for an enjoyable spin in the country. But where does Carl F. Bucherer fit in with all this? Mounted on the steering column is a self-winding Manero Power reserve model from the Lucerne-based watch manufacturer, presenting the time right in front of the driver’s eyes. A high-precision camera monitoring the watch is capable of spotting when the power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock enters the red zone, in which case the robotic arm turns into the world’s most intelligent watch winder, gently rotating to wind the watch.
Casting aside concerns such as what happens if the car is in manual mode when the system decides that the watch needs winding, why you would take your watch off in the car in the first place and how far you would have to drive continuously to wear down the 55-hour power reserve, the presence of the watch on the robotic arm is an excellent means of drawing attention to a range of innovative technologies.
Apart from the arm itself, the cockpit is brimming with new technologies such as advanced air conditioning and lighting systems, a next-generation infotainment system, laser scanners to monitor the outside of the vehicle, a 3D camera, NFD interconnectivity and new fibre-matrix materials for the upholstery.
Amongst all this state-of-the-art technology, the presence of a traditional Swiss timepiece is indeed a contradiction but it is one which could offer a modicum of reassuring familiarity if and when we have to adapt – both physically and mentally – to autonomous driving.