Leftfield Swiss car operation Rinspeed tends to rock up at the Geneva Auto Show each spring with a new concept car – showcasing the very latest technology from its partners, such as Harman, that produce connected car technologies and car audio equipment.
So what's Rinspeed doing at CES? Well it's a sign of the times that its latest concept – the Etos – seems far more at home at this show in the land of electronics than it would in Geneva.
The banana yellow concept takes a BMW i8 as its donor car and keeps the crazy door arrangement, but changes almost everything else – particularly on the interior – to show off the latest tech.
What'll grab your attention first, however, is the personal drone parked on the rear deck of the car. It'll fly behind the car, filming your efforts on a race track; or as was suggested by the rose hanging to the bottom of the micro-copter in Vegas, deliver a romantic gesture to someone you'd like to, erm, surprise.
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However, it's inside where the Etos is most likely to pique your interest. Shuffle over the i8's thick and high sill and drop down into the driver's seat and you're met by a steering wheel that looks like it was designed by a gamer, together with a his 'n' hers pair of curved 21.5 inch 4K screens.
Setting off on its imaginary journey from a country mansion into town – as displayed on a screen outside the windscreen to keep things feeling more real – Rinspeed showcased the capabilities that are provided by its Harman LIVS connected car platform, together with a new partnership Harman has set up with Microsoft to deliver office functions in the car and the wider benefits of cloud connectivity.
This suite of tech means we're going beyond a world where you do things like manually programme the satnav. Instead the car knows you're going to work on that day and sets the destination for you. Mentioning to Cortana that "I'm tired today" has her telling you that she'll re-route you via the nearest Starbucks to pick up a coffee (let's hope the cars of the future will learn we prefer our independent Milanese place and its super flat whites over the Seattle megabrand).
Music, like other functions, can be controlled via a third tablet mounted in front of the gearstick – but the car can pick songs for you depending on what day of the week it is and the mood you're in. Perhaps the neatest thing is that once a song's playing, it'll then search your device and, if you desire, the cloud, to create a playlist – or a list of potential songs of similar genres. These are presented on the 21-inch screens ahead of the driver as a sort of song constellation graphic.
Meanwhile, your passenger can be watching a video, listening to their own music or – novel idea in a tech show – read an actual book (they're stored in the slot under the main screen).
Up to this point, you've been in charge with the driving, but on your way into town the Etos has been reading your emails and spotted one from a colleague who's asked to chat to you about a new business idea. Cortana scans your diary, finds a slot and identifies you could speak to them later that day.
Next up, a call you've arranged on Skype is due. To stop you getting distracted the car switches to autonomous mode and begins to drive itself. In doing so, it folds the steering wheel up, pulls it into the dash and the two 21.5-inch screens slide towards you. The Skype call begins and a series of cameras mounted around the cabin ensure that your tired morning face can be seen in high definition by those on the other end of the call. The car spots some areas of weak signal while you're on your call, and so takes a diversion to ensure the call doesn't drop.
Finally, as you approach your destination, the Etos locates parking and takes the car directly to it.
Vegas is full of cloud-connected IoT-ready autonomous driving car concepts this year. But Rinspeed and Harman show how smartly this can be. By collecting data and building a picture of users over time the car of the future isn't just going to reduce driving load. It's ready to assist your every step, make your life easier and stop being a dumb object but rather a proactive one.