One of the traditions at the Geneva Motor Show is a far-out concept from Frank Rinderknecht, mastermind behind Swiss idea factory of Rinspeed. This year, he takes on the concept of autonomous driving in the form of the Rinspeed Budii concept, which rather than relies on sensors and black boxes to guide the car down roadways, actually places a robot behind the wheel.

In his vision, robots will no longer just assemble cars, they will pilot the car as well thanks to a robotic arm that will either pilot the vehicle or hand over the steering wheel back to the "driver" if a particularly engaging piece of road comes up. 

More than a steering column 

According to Rinspeed, the sensitive 7-axis robotic arm is more than merely a steering column; it can be adjusted in numerous ways from stowing out of the way in the center of the vehicle in autonomous mode or serving as a table. The Budii system also has a capability to learn from its environment.

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"In the future, cars will do just as we do: they will keep learning every day, and as a result will get better and better at mastering the complex challenges of modern-day private transport," Rinderknecht said. As a result, Budii takes information from its surroundings, its own "experiences" and those of other vehicles along its route into consideration. This information builds a data base that creates an autopilot with both cognitive and intuitive skills.

BMW i3-based

The concept car itself looks familiar. Rinspeed started with a BMW i3 electric vehicle which was re-engineered by Swiss company 4erC to accommodate the autonomous driving features including the robotic arm. In addition, the Budii has new 19-inch wheels, an air suspension with a height adjustment range of nearly four inches and an innovative TrackView laser scanner and camera that senses and maps the terrain ahead automatically adjusting the suspension to match. The Budii is also equipped with two electric motorbikes that store in retractable drawers on either side of the vehicle offering additional mobility once at a destination. 

Access to the interior is provided by the innovative electric door opening and closing system, while a fan-like privacy shade can be deployed  during autonomous driving. The Budii is painted bright anthracite metallic, while the interior is a combination of silver, midnight-blue and cognac surfaces edged in orange to give the interior a lounge-like effect. . The fact that electric vehicles can also be sexy and emotionally charged - in Rinspeed's view even have to be in order to sell better - is proven by "Budii's" bright anthracite paint finish with sparkler effect. In the interior, designed jointly by Hornschuch and Strähle+Hess, silver-colored and midnight-blue "skai" surfaces as well as the cognac-colored textile with signal-orange highlights in edging and band create a feel-good lounge atmosphere. Removable tables made of Plexiglas allow relaxed working during autonomous driving.


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