Believe me when I say that I know all about the joys of driving. However, I also know that for the majority of folks out there, the automobile is not a platform for enjoyment, but rather a simple tool of transport. Anyone who’s been stuck in a traffic jam or bored to tears on some monotonous highway journey will tell you that from time to time, driving is not so fun. Sometimes, you just want to get there. And when you consider the heavy price we pay for the freedoms that the car provides, both monetarily and in terms of human life, you can’t help but think hat maybe there’s a better way.

Swiss automobile manufacturer and tuning designer Rinspeed certainly thinks so. Founded in 1979, Rinspeed specializes in restoring classic cars and modifying modern platforms like Porsches and Subarus. Additionally, it’s designed non-production, concept vehicles for the annual Geneva Motor Show every year since 1991.

Rinspeed’s latest creation is the Budii. Described as a “friend on wheels," the Budii concept is an electric autonomous vehicle that “will keep learning each day, and as a result will get better and better at mastering the complex challenges of modern-day private transport,” as stated in a press release.

Rinspeed says that the city-dwelling Budii is designed to be “the perfect chauffeur that quickly adapts to the habits and preferences of its ‘boss’.” Although details of how the driver AI will adjust its behavior are rough, we do know that the car “will take data from its environment and the ‘experiences’ of other vehicles along its route into account.”

While vague, we can speculate that the “preferences of its ‘boss’" might reference a particular route that the driver/passenger may enjoy, while “environment and the ‘experiences’ of other vehicles” could be shared car-to-car information like road and traffic conditions.

Either way, a self-driving car that has the ability to adapt and learn sounds great to us. If it eases the more tedious parts of driving, while also making the roads safer, it’s an idea that’s hard to argue against. Just don’t plug it into Skynet, and we’ll give it our approval.

Click past the jump to read more about the Rinspeed Budii Concept.

Exterior

2015 Rinspeed Budii Drawings
- image 581559

From these concept renderings, the Budii shares an awful lot of lines with the BMW i3, which would make sense given its stated EV powertrain. Mounted to the roof, we see what could only be a sensor pack that acts as the eyes and ears for the driver AI. The rest of the body is streamlined for low drag to maximize electric efficiency. Large wheels add a bit of visual flair, while the elongated windshield offers ample viewing of the outside world, whether it’s for driving or relaxing.

Interior

2015 Rinspeed Budii Drawings
- image 581558

The most attention-worthy aspect of the interior is the movable manual-control steering wheel, which can sit in three different positions depending on situation and preference; “the steering wheel is supported by a state-of-the-art sensitive robot arm, which enables both the driver and the front passenger to steer,” Rinspeed says in a press release. “And if nobody feels like steering, it is simply parked in center position.” I like this, as it suggests the retention of pleasure driving alongside the automated grind of A-to-B commuting. In addition to the dynamic features up front, there’s also space for passengers in the back, which we imagine is complimented by a pillar-less set of rear doors to aid ingress and egress.

Drivetrain

As an “electrically powered eye-catcher”, we can only assume Rinspeed foresees the Budii to be powered by the same lithium-ion battery and electric motor found in the BMW i3, with around 130 kW (170 horsepower) available under the hood. While not exactly quick, the instant torque and lightweight shell should provide for some fun if a human decides to take the wheel. Maybe there could even be a high-performance hybrid version as well. We just imagine a HAL 9000-esque voice coming in over the stereo system: “you appear to be driving quite spiritedly. Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?”

Prices

A normal BMW i3 is priced around $40,000, but with all the nifty features that Rinspeed proposes in the Budii concept, that figure could easily triple. However, if folks are willing to shell out $6,000 for a Lamborghini-branded cellphone, something this innovative is sure to get its fair share of buyers. It’s technology that’s cutting edge and in high demand, and that usually makes for one very expensive product. But still, think of all the stress you’ll save by kicking back as your personalized driving AI whisks you to-and-fro. For anyone who commutes with any regularity, the Budii can’t come soon enough.

Competition

While there are no direct competitors to the Budii, I must note that Audi, Mercedes, Ford, and several other automakers are all racing to create their own working versions of autonomous cars. It’s a trend that certainly doesn’t look like it’s going away, and while a highway filled with AI drivers could be just over the horizon, which automaker will actually make it work first remains to be seen.

Conclusion

The Rinspeed Budii is a very cool idea. If you’re going to have an autonomous car, it only makes sense to endow it with the ability to adapt to road conditions and personal taste. However, there are still a lot of questions around autonomous cars that remain unanswered. Liability, for one, is a rather hefty issue. How an AI will handle the (at times, unpredictable) behavior of human motorists is another. Will the formula and algorithms be able to compensate for human error with the same agility as the intuition of a real brain? Our guts tell us yes, but odds are it’ll take a few years to iron out all the kinks. The question is: how much would you trust the first-generation driver AI?

  • Leave it
    • Very few details: about as “concept” as it gets
    • Flashbacks of HAL 9000

Press Release

As far as Swiss automotive visionary Frank M. Rinderknecht is concerned, the breakneck speed of technical developments forces us to redefine our relationship with the automobile. The farsighted Swiss says: “Until now, what we have primarily associated with auto mobility was freedom and individuality. And - consciously or unconsciously - we are prepared to pay a high price in many regards for these privileges. We need only look at the accident statistics.”

2015 Rinspeed Budii Drawings
- image 581558

Autonomous driving undoubtedly offers the opportunity to drastically diminish some of the drawbacks of private transport. For example, the number of traffic accidents could drop worldwide. But although it will be less prone to err than humans, even the best technology will not be perfect. “That is something we will have to accept,” believes the boss of Rinspeed, the Swiss automotive powerhouse of ideas. “We should not develop a blind, but rather a healthy faith in the new capabilities of the hardware and software.” Because in his estimation, cars will do just what we do: “They will keep learning each day, and as a result will get better and better at mastering the complex challenges of modern-day private transport.”

The Swiss company will show the world what such a learning and personalized “friend on wheels” might look like at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show with the trans-urban “Budii” concept car. The electrically powered eye-catcher is intended to become the driver’s “best buddy,” and its autopilot the perfect chauffeur that quickly adapts to the habits and preferences of its “boss.” To this end, “Budii” will feature a host of innovations, which following a long-standing Rinspeed tradition will revolve around humans and their needs. In addition, it will take data from its environment and the “experiences” of other vehicles along its route into account.

The car for the city and surrounding countryside will handle the often inconvenient daily routine trips independently, while the “pilot” will still be able to take the wheel as usual on fun weekend trips. The ingenious twist: the steering wheel is supported by a state-of-the-art sensitive robot arm, which enables both the driver and the front passenger to steer. And if nobody feels like steering, it is simply parked in center position.

2015 Rinspeed Budii Drawings
- image 581559

Rinderknecht is sure: “The transition from traditional to autonomous driving will take place in stages. Consequently, man and machine will still have a few years left to get used to this new form of mobility and the different interplay between people and technology it will entail, time they both will need.”

The Geneva Motor Show will take place from March 5 through 15, 2015. The Rinspeed “Budii” is already the twenty-first proprietary concept vehicle of the Swiss “Think Tank” and “Innovation Lab”.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: