Monday, March 02, 2009

iPhone-Controlled Car to Demo at Geneva Motor Show

It can send e-mails, play video, access the Web and snap pictures, but
control a car? Swiss automobile design house Rinspeed will unveil a
concept electric car controlled by an iPhone at next week's Geneva
Motor Show.

The iChange ditches car keys in favor of an iPhone, which clips into a
holder on the dashboard to the right or left of the steering wheel.
Once connected a green "start" button appears on the iPhone's display
and one push brings the iChange automobile to life. When you're
driving the car the iPhone can also be used for other control
functions, such as switching on and off the headlights.

But the car is about much more than just an iPhone. With it, Rinspeed
is trying to revolutionize the way people think of cars.

Most cars are designed to carry a fixed number of passengers in a
fixed number of seats and the entire vehicle is based around this.
Even if you usually travel alone, the vehicle's space never changes.
The aerodynamics of the vehicle, and therefore its fuel consumption,
are constantly tied to this fixed number of passengers.

But not the iChange. In its basic configuration the pod-shaped sports
car is a single seater but at the push of a button the rear of the
roof pops up to provide room for an extra two passengers.

The adaptive body concept is perhaps the biggest innovation in the car
but there are others. It's an all-electric car powered by Lithium Ion
batteries and there are two configurations: one with fewer batteries
for less weight and shorter driving and another heavier configuration
for longer distances. The 150 kilowatt Siemens-built electric motor
provides enough power to take the car from zero to 100 kph (kilometers
per hour) in 4.2 seconds, said Rinspeed.

The Harman/Kardon audio system is based on a low-power Intel processor
so it uses less energy and weighs less than standard systems and the
car navigation won't just calculate the quickest way to get to your
destination but the most eco-friendly route to get there in the car.

Designer Frank Rinderknecht, who came up with the iChange, is
well-known in his native Switzerland for creating interesting concept
cars. Last year it was the "sQuba," a sports car that can drive
underwater, that he unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. The cars he
designs typically never make it to market so don't go looking for the
iChange at a car dealership anytime soon.

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