The days of minimalist design within vehicles are coming to an end in this technologically-driven era we find ourselves in today. Consumers are now more interested in continuing their connected lives within the car, in an entirely new ‘third living space’. As traffic and pollution increases, there will soon be no desire to drive a car and this has become evident in many concept vehicles.
One concept that has taken this ideology into a completely different light is the Rinspeed Oasis: a revolutionary vision of the third living space of the future. Joining forces with interior expert Stahl, the concept sports sustainable leather arm chair seats and innovative new surface technology. Now, the focus of the next-generation vehicle is almost entirely on the inside, with many design teams opting for a pod-like exterior so that they can get on with being creative inside.
Speaking to Stefan Buri, Global Director of Marketing, Automotive at Stahl, I analyse the future of mobility and the kind of innovations we will start to see over the next few years, both at international motor shows and on our roads. When I ask what the Rinspeed Oasis represents, Buri tells me that it is the perfect example of how the world is changing. “The model has been tipped upside down and will continue to be so in the coming years. We believe that change always goes hand in hand with future opportunities, which is why we have explored new paths in order to play an active role. We believe that every company that does not actively look for opportunities in the future risks being overtaken by technological advancements.” It is evident that both Stahl and Rinspeed clearly want to lead in the innovative interior market.
Buri met the Founder and CEO of Rinspeed, Frank M. Rinderknecht, over three years ago whilst he was making a keynote speech at a technology conference. He tells me that he became inspired by his strong vision of future mobility and upcoming changes and transformation of the automotive industry. “I had the opportunity to explain to him what Stahl, the leading car interior expert, was doing. When I showed him our design collection and latest developments he got totally inspired by our specific roles, and both sides realised that we were a perfect match,” he said.
Both companies pride themselves on pushing boundaries to enable innovation, so the strategic decision to begin cooperating with each other was unsurprising. For example, the Rinspeed Oasis concept has been exhibited at a number of motor shows around the world such as CES, a Vegas-based technology exhibition which has become the place to be for automakers, along with the Detroit Motor show and, most recently, at the Geneva Motor Show for its European premier. “It is an extremely long process designing a completely new, innovative interior for future vehicles, but now the automotive industry has realised that Rinspeed and Stahl are working together to create this third living space,” Buri adds.
He tells me that the background of this relationship had a lot to do with what is currently happening with technological advancements in the modern automotive world. The transformation is coming from the digital side, which is very clear, and new mobility is being shaped by the digital realm. Buri strongly believes that the analogue world will play a key role in the future, with car interior and infotainment overthrowing such things as horsepower and driver involvement through accelerated trends of technology. “The world is becoming more connected; we are seeing the convergence of industries, such as the automotive industry, home interior industry, lifestyle industry, aircraft industry and even the fashion industry,” he explains. “We have started to talk to interior brands, hotel chains and automotive executives about exploring how the living space of the future should look like.”
As mentioned, the interior of the concept has been inspired by many other industries, utilising a human-centric approach that allows passengers to feel most at home, with bright colours, multiple screens and even house plants. This is not what you would expect in an automotive product, however it illustrates the transition into the connected world of transportation. Buri stresses the importance of prolonging people's connected lifestyles within the car, not forcing them to finish what they are doing before they move into the vehicle. “What Stahl and Rinspeed are doing is bringing everything into the vehicle, continued from the rest of the ecosystem - a seamless experience.”
Consumers are losing interest in driving pleasures and are becoming more attracted to a continuation of their lifestyles, seamless interaction and infotainment. This is reflecting the changed perception that the interior of the vehicle is more important than the exterior, with consumer preferences rapidly changing, not only in the automotive industry but also in other segments. “New emerging technologies are changing the preferences of the consumers, which is exciting stuff that will have a major influence on how we will look at future interiors in the electric age of mobility, which will soon become the heart of the car,” says Buri.
Stahl is looking to address this by opening up new possibilities of how surfaces and materials in the car could look like in an new age, utilising a new era of of urban vehicles. Technology has now defined the new role of automotive. “The main innovations will come from the digital side through new interfaces which will create a totally new experience inside the vehicle, changing how you can use your free time and when autonomous driving becomes a reality. People will then have more time to pay attention to details in the car interiors as they do not have to focus on the road ahead. Details will become more important and that has everything to do with interior materials and surfaces.”
More importantly, vehicles must continue to become cleaner in order to comply with approaching regulations in world cities and, most importantly, secure a cleaner and greener future. Stahl and Rinspeed have gone to extreme lengths to achieve 0% emissions, sustainable materials and the safety of passengers. Buri explains that there is a strong association between sustainable mobility and vehicle interiors, whether it be electric powertrains or air quality within the vehicle. EV technology is developing rapidly and it is vital that the industry continues to support it with investments such as charging stations and smart infrastructures. “When you look at highly polluted areas like China, it is clear that customers and countries become more aware of the well-being of their people,” he says. “We believe that car interior air quality is one of the dimensions that will become a more important criterion, which goes hand in hand with our concept products like our gardens.”
Buri admits that the mobile garden concept is “a bit out there,” however it is setting a message that we need to bring well-being into the car. In the next few years, this may be an idea adopted by many players in the automotive world when designing concepts. In addition, other sustainable technology such as what is found in the materials within the vehicle will ensure that the air quality in the car is healthy and free of smell and emissions. The leather has been tanned with a technology called Stahl EasyWhite Tan, a chrome-free technology that has the sustainability credentials of reducing water, salt and energy during leather processing. The vehicle also incorporates other sustainable products such as Green PolyMatte, a bio-based finishing which creates future-proof matt surfaces with a warm and pleasant touch. These innovative materials will slowly be incorporated into a range of vehicles in the future, with automakers already focusing on recycled materials within cabins.
This is a concept vehicle, so it is unlikely that we will see it on our roads. However, as Buri explains, the Oasis personifies progression in the automotive world by illustrating what the future holds for us. “Our intention when we started to design the concept was to come up with a progressive urban vehicle. The ambition was to be progressive, which is why you find unique elements like the mobile garden featuring within the vehicle,” he says. Rinspeed is about inspiring people, following the rapid change we are experiencing through future mobility. Buri tells me that both companies do not intend to roll out the Rinspeed Oasis concept onto public roads any time soon, but tells me that we will definitely see specific elements of it in other vehicles in the future. There are certainly exciting times ahead for the industry.