You could never accuse Rinspeed of playing by the rules. Past concepts have played around with amphibious technology, drones and, in one case, been able to shrink at the push of a button.
It should come as no surprise, then, the latest car to roll forth from the company's workshop in Switzerland isn't what you'd call 'conventional.'
Rather than a monocoque, where the body and chassis are essentially one piece, the car rides on an extreme form of skateboard chassis. All the hardware for driving – a 12kWh battery and 51kW motor – is housed in the floor, which actually separates from the "durable passenger safety cell".
Rinspeed says the chassis has a top speed "greater than 80km/h" and hits 100km/h in just 5.0 seconds. The fact there's a 100km/h sprint time quoted would suggest the Snap will go faster than 100km/h – let alone 80km/h. A full battery is good for 100km of driving.
Passengers sit in removable pods, which attach to the top of the chassis. When hooked up, these pods mimic the cabins of other self-driving concepts we've seen. That means there are plenty of options when it comes to infotainment and seating layout – the concept bound for CES has leather lounge chairs and an abundance of storage space, along with a smart voice assistant.
There are screens for each passenger, along with a projector to display messages to the outside world. How self-driving cars will communicate with pedestrians and cyclists is one of the bigger challenges facing autonomous manufacturers, given we heavily rely on body language and eye-contact at the moment.
If you aren't keen on the current design, don't worry. Rinspeed says the possibilities are essentially endless for the Snap, meaning it could be converted into a camper, shopping pod or 'cozy cuddling pod'. We'd suggest closing the blinds while 'cuddling' and, if that isn't hint enough for other commuters, displaying 'do not disturb' on the external message board. That should get the point across.
Of course, cuddling isn't the real focus the Snap. Instead, it's designed to highlight the possibilities associated with a truly modular design, especially in the world of autonomous vehicles.
Rather than having to scrap an entire car when the batteries are out of date, you could simply swap your passenger pod onto a new chassis. Anyone with an older car will know how quickly sat-nav systems become outdated. When the entire car is software reliant, obsolescence isn't just annoying, it opens the door for accidents.
When a newer, safer, faster chassis becomes available, members of the Snap 'club' could just pop their pod onto that chassis. The old chassis can be recycled, helping curb the huge waste associated with scrapping cars.
Rinspeed also says pods could be used as mobile office spaces, detaching from their chassis and setting up shop in open spaces around the city. When it's time to move on, a chassis could simply pick the pod up and move it to the next place.
The wacky Snap will be on show at CES, set to kick off on January 10 in Las Vegas.