The microMAX: Using space and technology to maximize mobility

Busses, taxis, carsharing and carpooling are all different means for dealing with urban and business mobility. To exploit the benefits and minimize the disadvantages of each type of transportation, some cities and businesses have integrated these different ways of transportation into a single system.

But now the Swiss automobile company Rinspeed AG has created a concept car that combines bus, taxi, and car into one vehicle.

Innovations in design and technology

Rinspeed’s new concept car is called the microMAX and it seeks to satisfy the needs of local mass transit, daily business commuting and individual mobility. The microMAX’s most apparent innovations are its shape and redesigned cabin. Extending only 3.7 meters, the length of the microMAX is roughly equivalent to that of a BMW Mini, but its height of 2.2 meters makes the interior room comparable to a van. This compact size allows for better manoeuvrability and parking capability, but it also forced Rinspeed to rethink passenger seating. The microMAX is outfitted with four half-standing, half-sitting seats that still allow for ample cargo storage. Then, to make the microMAX more appealing for carpooling and commuting, the microMAX is equipped with a coffee machine, fridge, and Wi-Fi to make the roomy interior into a “lounge” area. Additionally the vehicle as well as the amenities is powered by a fully electric motor.[1]

But the microMAX’s most alluring innovations were built into its cloud technology. Modelled on the concept of swarm intelligence by using the potential power of intelligent collectives, Rinspeed integrated an “urbanSWARM” smartphone application into the microMAX. Users and drivers enter their destinations into the app and then the cloud technology analyses information about the location, speed, destination and occupancy of every microMAX in a person’s community and arranges possible rides and even transfers if necessary. “UrbanSWARM” is designed to accommodate the regular carpool and commuting schemes as well as spontaneous trips and errand running.

The future of the microMAX

While the new design is clearly innovative and new, it is unlikely that communities of microMAXes will organically sprout up in cities in the numbers necessary to really make a difference in urban and business mobility. At a projected price of 5,000 to 10,000€1 the microMAX should be affordable, but few individuals will buy them mainly because no employed person will be willing to act as a personal chauffeur in his or her free time. Instead, the best market for the microMAX will probably be established fleets that have proper leadership and coordination. MicroMAXes could be integrated into existing commercial carsharing programmes to add cars with more storage space and carpooling capabilities. Companies could also integrate microMAXes into their fleets to encourage carpooling, or use them on corporate campuses or airports as a kind of public transportation or shuttle service. While we do think it will be difficult for the actual microMAX to find a niche in the mobility market, perhaps its greatest possibility lies in its “urbanSWARM” technology. This technology, similar to the myTaxi app previously featured on this blog, could easily be converted and implemented in other transportation systems. By creating a “swarm” community, company car fleets could better track car availability and use, taxi services could better coordinate trips and maximise gas mileage, carsharing and public transportation systems could better coordinate carpooling and various time schedules. While we here at Alphabet applaud the engineering daring of the microMAX, it’s best benefit is the technology that brings together riders and drivers to maximise the limited mobility resources available.

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