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An eccentric Swiss company has created a car with a periscope-style camera to scan the road ahead and a steering wheel that can be stowed – so you can browse the web on the way to work.
The Rinspeed Budii (pronounced "buddy") is the star concept car at this week's Geneva motor show, due to open Wednesday March 4, Australian time.
The Swiss firm based its latest flight of fancy on the BMW i3 electric car, which has been pulled apart and rebuilt so it is unrecognisable – and loaded with advanced equipment from more than two-dozen technology suppliers.
The periscope uses laser and camera technology to read traffic and detect obstacles, while the steering wheel can be used as a makeshift table to rest a lap-top while the car finds its way through traffic.
The steering wheel can also be swivelled from the left to the right side of the cabin depending on where the vehicle is sold – or can be slid across at a moment's notice if the driver is too tired.
A dedicated app for smart phones (and smart watches) enables owners to set the air-conditioning temperature of the car minutes before they are due to start driving, and activate the electric car's recharging cycle.
Although the Rinspeed Budii concept car is not equipped with autonomous driving technology, it does provide an insight into what the inside of self-driving cars could look like.
There are large iPad screens in the sun visors, with road information for the driver, and a TV or DVD player for the passenger.
The central cabin control screen is as large as a TV, and the display automatically reduces the amount of information shown based on what the driver uses most.
"The vision of autonomous driving will soon become reality and will fundamentally change the interaction of man and automobiles," says Rinspeed boss Frank Rinderknecht.
The car industry is gradually increasing the level of automation in modern vehicles, starting with radar cruise control with "stop-start", which keeps a safe distance from the car ahead, automatically comes to a stop and restarts once the traffic is moving again – without the driver having to touch the brake or accelerator pedals. This technology is available in luxury cars today.
The next step is "on-ramp to off-ramp" automation on freeways. Experts believe it will be 10 to 15 years before the technology is good enough to handle the complexity of city and suburban driving.
"The autonomously driving car will require more than solving technical problems and legal issues in the next two decades," said Mr Rinderknecht. "We not only have to redefine the interaction of man and machine, but must also raise questions about responsibility, tolerances and expectations."
Police and insurance companies have already made it clear drivers will still be responsible for obeying the law while behind the wheel of autonomous cars, just as a pilot must stay alert and in control when a plane is on auto-pilot.
"Even the best technology will not be perfect, albeit less prone to error than humans. That is something we will have to accept," said Mr Rinderknecht. "In the future, cars will do just as we do: they will keep learning every day, and as a result will get better and better at mastering the complex challenges of modern-day private transport."
Rinspeed has a long history of creating unusual concept cars. Last year it showed a Tesla electric car with the seats facing backwards – towards a large screen TV – to illustrate how quickly autonomous technology was developing.
In 2013 Rinspeed showed a tiny city car in which drivers and passengers stood while strapped to a seat rest; the idea was to create a super-small vehicle that can carry five or more people in comfort.
Although the latest Rinspeed concept car does debut a number of world firsts, it wasn't the first company in the world to dream of a bird's eye view of the traffic ahead. Last year Renault unveiled a concept car called the KWID which had a camera drone beam live images back to a screen in the dashboard.
It is fitting that so many supercars and racing machines for the super-rich are due to bow at the 2015 Geneva motor show. You need a tax haven to be able to afford to buy – or bend – any one of these.
Clearly a recession is around the corner. History shows when super cars become common as muck the global economy collapses, the car industry contracts, and we start all over again.
In the meantime, here's a taste of how Europe's filthy rich are living it up as we race towards a fiscal cliff.
We don't know what the name means either, but what we do know is that this is the new two-seater sports car concept from the German-owned British brand Bentley. The 'EXP-10 Speed 6', to give its full name, is a pointer to a new model to sell alongside the Bentley coupe and sedan that are already on sale and the SUV that is a few years away from showrooms. The press blurb waxes lyrical about the design and the "expression of muscular, athletic surfaces inspired by the aerodynamic shapes of aircraft fuselages and wings". But nowhere does Bentley mention what type of engine it has. Perhaps 'six' is a clue.
For some people, even Lamborghini supercars aren't fast enough. That's why cars like this are born. Lamborghini has extracted 50 extra horsepower and trimmed 50kg of bodyweight from the regular V12 Aventador to produce this limited edition lightweight model. It's called (deep breath) the Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce. All you really need to know is that with 750 horsepower (or 560kW in modern parlance) it can reach the speed limit in just 2.8 seconds and will likely cost more than $800,000 when it goes on sale in Australia late this year.
Only 24 of these will be made and, as the saying goes, if you have to ask the price, you probably can't afford it. You will need especially deep pockets given this is a race car, and spare parts won't exactly be "off the shelf". The entire body and chassis are handmade from lightweight carbon-fibre. And the U-shaped steering wheel looks like something from a fighter plane. The Aston Martin Vulcan is the company's latest track weapon, said to have a handy 800 horsepower from its 7.0-litre V12. This is Aston Martin's answer to a one-make racing series for the super-rich.
Aston Martin's first sedan since 1976 was released as a limited edition for the Middle East in 2014; now the company has extended production of the aptly-named Taraf to other global markets – in both left- and right-hand-drive – but will cap the number built to 200. Price "remains confidential" but the British press report it will cost £400,000 (approximately $800,000 in Australian dollars, but closer to $1 million by the time Luxury Car Tax and GST are added). Each car will be powered by Aston Martin's 6.0-litre V12 as the engine deal with Mercedes-AMG is yet to start.
Do not adjust your eyes: this is the new, second-generation Audi R8. You can tell because it has vertical slats in the lower section of the front bumper, a bigger bulge in the side vents, and squinty headlights. Despite the visual similarities with the original, every panel is new. And the 5.2-litre V10 has been given a tune-up: 449kW in its most powerful guise. On sale here early next year from an estimated $400,000.
After 10 years and 450 sales (at €1 million plus taxes apiece) the last ever Bugatti Veyron will bow at the 2015 Geneva motor show. In the end, the world's fastest car had an epic 895kW of power and a mind-boggling 1500Nm of torque from its quad turbo W16 (yes, two V8s mounted back-to-back). Top speed: an average of 431km/h over 1km and a 0 to 100km/h time of 2.5 seconds, which is faster than a Formula One car. The good news: Bugatti is developing a successor.
The 488 GTB is the first turbocharged mid-engined Ferrari since the epic F40 supercar made from 1987 to 1992, and is only the second turbo V8 in the company's modern era after last year's California T. As with almost every brand, Ferrari is moving to turbocharging because it can extract more power from smaller engines that burn less fuel. A sign of the times, the 488 GTB (reviving the 40-year-old badge from the 308 GTB) easily eclipses the F40's output (351kW/577Nm) with an impressive 492kW of power and 760Nm of torque to create a 0 to 100km/h time of 3.0 seconds.
This may look like another bad-ass Mercedes AMG GT but the bigger news is under the bonnet. It's the last hurrah for the high-powered and highly-strung 6.3-litre V8 that has been at the heart of almost every Mercedes-Benz AMG V8 model for the past decade. And it's going out on a high as the engine to be used in Mercedes' GT3 racer next year.
British F1 firm McLaren has joined the long list of supercar makers with a new racing program: the P1 GTR is powered by a 1000 horsepower twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8. The show car is finished in the same colour scheme as McLaren's LeMans winner from 20 years ago. McLaren's one-make racing series for the well-heeled kicks off later this year.
German sports car maker Porsche has finally done what diehard fans have demanded for more than 10 years. It has fitted the bigger and more powerful 3.8-litre six-cylinder engine from its 911 flagship into the smaller, more affordable and mid-engined Cayman. The result is a car that promises to out-pace and out-manouvre the iconic 911, which is precisely the reason Porsche was so reluctant to build it in the first place. In local showrooms by the end of the year with a price we're guessing will top $200,000.
Meet Mercedes-Benz's monster truck, and one of the most expensive four-wheel-drives in the world. The G500 is based on the legendary Mercedes G-Class body (originally developed for military use but has since been made for civilians) and uses AMG's new twin turbo 4.0-litre V8. But the big news is the desert-racer suspension and the massive 22-inch wheels and tyres – and a price tag likely to cost in excess of $500,000. Fortunately it rides so high there isn't much chance you'll scratch it.
Not every car at the Geneva motor show is expensive, inaccessible and unlikely to ever hit the road. But nor is every new car actually a car. Between the regular passenger vehicles is an increasing array of small SUVs.
The world's biggest selling car (and the top-seller in Australia for the past two years in a row) is due for a facelift mid-year. New headlights combine with a futuristic-looking grille and sleek front bumper to give it a freshen-up. It's also tipped to get a rear-view camera as standard on every model (bringing it up to speed with the Corolla sedan and the Yaris hatch). The photo is of a hybrid version sold in Europe but Toyota Australia still has no plans to introduce the petrol-electric Corolla.
This car should erase any doubts about Hyundai's continued climb up the sales charts. The new Hyundai Tucson (the first European reveal for an all-new Hyundai) is due in Australia in August. Underneath its miniature Hyundai SantaFe looks is a choice of 2.0-litre petrol, 2.0-litre turbo diesel and 1.6-litre turbo petrol power.
The initials "GT" are usually associated with iconic Falcon V8 sedans or Ford's US-made Ferrari-fighting sports car, but BMW has decided to add the badge to its first people mover. The 2 Series "Grand Tourer" is the seven-seat version of its 2 Series front-wheel-drive hatch. Note the longer body, taller roof and the bigger boot to fit the third-row seats. On sale later this year.
With its bright red paintwork, dark grey alloy wheels and sleek lines you could be forgiven for thinking this could pass for Ferrari's first ever wagon. In fact, it's a Kia. This concept is a pointer to the new generation Optima sedan, which will also be available as a wagon for the first time. Due on sale in Australia late this year.
This cool-looking concept comes from Mitsubishi, which has a habit of making its production cars look nowhere near as exciting as the motor show tease. Here's hoping we're wrong. This is the preview to the all-new ASX compact SUV due in showrooms next year. The concept has plug-in hybrid technology but we're not certain that'll make the production version. Petrol and diesel engines will likely be standard fare.
Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti (which doesn't know how to spell "infinity") is about to join the baby SUV boom with the oddly-named QX30. Car makers are switching to letters and numbers because apparently we're running out of car names that don't offend someone somewhere in various languages. Expect a showroom version of this to appear next year.
It's difficult to know whether this is a tall hatchback or a squashed SUV. The Lexus LF-SA (be careful how you say that) concept is said to be a pointer to the brand's first pint-sized SUV for the city. As is the case with previous Lexus concepts, the showroom version won't look anything like this unfortunately. Imagine this car with normal doors, much smaller wheels and tyres, regular headlights, and then squint a bit, and you have an idea how the real thing will look when it arrives next year.
This is a concept intended to warm us to the look of the new generation Audi A4 and A6 wagons due in the next two years. The concept also previews "production ready" plug-in hybrid technology, joining the long list of European brands embracing electrical cords to reduce the emissions ratings for their petrol-powered cars.
We're not sure if this looks like a Kia, or if the latest Kia cars look like Citroens. But just to be clear this is the facelift for the Citroen DS5, with a slightly cleaner front-end look while the rest of the car is unchanged. That said, it still turns heads, three years on. The update should be in Australian showrooms by the end of the year.
The photos of the new Ford Focus RS hot hatch were released last month, but the vital signs and "tech specs" will finally be made available during the car's first public outing. Powered by the same 2.3-litre turbo four-cylinder engine used in the Mustang, and matched to an all-wheel-drive system, it promises to become Ford's fastest and most powerful hot hatch.
The Honda Civic Type R has been in the making for almost as long as the Nissan GT-R. Here's hoping good things come to those who wait. We've seen the concept before, and we know it'll be powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, but the production version of the Civic Type R finally bows at Geneva. There is just one catch: Honda says we might not see the car in Australia until 2017 because the priority is to get the Honda NSX supercar in local showrooms next year.
Is your idea of sleeping under stars simply a hotel with a five-star rating? This could be the camper trailer kit for you. Jeep has created a trailer in the same shape as the tail-end of its new city-sized SUV, the Renegade. It comes with a wide screen TV and a massive sound system to annoy other campers. But fear not: it's only a motor show tease. You will not be able to buy this source of public disturbance at a Jeep dealer any time soon.