March 11 - With their new MicroMAX vehicle, Swiss motor manufacturer Rinspeed envisages a fleet of cloud-connected cars that can be communally shared. The company believes the box-shaped vehicle could revolutionise commuter transportation and they've taken their case - and the car - to the Geneva Car Show to spread the word. Jim Drury reports.
Its makers believe the electric MicroMAX prototype could revolutionise commuter car-pooling. Designed by Swiss firm Rinspeed, the taxi-bus hybrid is currently on display at the Geneva Car Show. Cloud-based software would enable vehicles in the fleet to 'talk' to each other, allowing them to find optimal routes for passenger pick-ups. It would also help reduce the number of single-occupant car journeys, a major issue for environmentalists. Rinspeed boss Frank Rinderknecht says the MicroMAX addresses a growing problem for city drivers. SOUNDBITE (English) FRANK M. RINDERKNECHT, BOSS OF RINSPEED SAYING: "The idea behind the microMAX is that, every morning, if you look at the traffic, there is one single person, in one car. Now, in my imagination, if there were two people, we had less of traffic, we had less of pollution, less of cost. But people don't do that." Once part of the MicroMAX community, participants could access any of its fleet by checking their smartphone. Three and a half metres long and more than two metres high, one reviewer called it a 'living room on wheels.' With a coffee machine, fridge, and integrated WiFi, it's built not just for efficiency, but comfort as well. There's space for a driver, three semi-standing passengers, and a generous cargo allowance. The all-electric vehicle has a 28 kilowatt motor powered by a forklift drive system. SOUNDBITE (English) FRANK M. RINDERKNECHT, BOSS OF RINSPEED SAYING: "The microMAX is powered by electricity, it has a range of about a hundred kilometers which is good enough to go to work or come from work." As a concept company Rinspeed won't produce the car itself. It's in talks with automakers and predicts a price tag of between 5,000 and 10,000 euros. The firm believes the MicroMAX could ease congestion and cut pollution, while spreading 'flash-mob' culture to urban commuting.