A Transforming Office Car: Sci-Fi Nonsense or the Future Workplace?

XchangE - Regus/Rinspeed
XchangE - Regus/Rinspeed

Since Regus announced its impressive new mobile working innovation this week, the media has been abuzz with speculation. Is this really the work/life concept of the future? Or is it sci-fi fodder that’s merely oiling a very effective PR machine?

Here’s the scoop. Regus announced that it has partnered with Rinspeed, a Swiss automobile manufacturer and ‘idea factory’, to create a self-driving car equipped with technology and connectivity systems to allow passengers to work on the move. Dubbed the XchangE, the car’s two front seats can swivel backwards to create a meeting space for four people.

Naturally, Regus focuses intently on the productivity benefits of this ‘third place’ work location and its potential to help people work more flexibly, which ties in with its growing portfolio of touchdown spaces at major transport hubs.

For Rinspeed, this is an opportunity to send another truly innovative creation to the Geneva Motor Show. It’s no stranger to the event – it has been unveiling concept cars at the Show for over 20 years. Its new XchangE will debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show in March, and is set to make quite a splash. You can read more about the spectacular ideas behind the XchangE here.

But like most Rinspeed concepts, the XchangE isn’t necessarily destined for production.

As of yet, the world isn’t quite ready for self-driving cars. The technology is there and autonomous vehicles are already on the road. But culturally – and financially – the concept has a little way to go. However, with major backers including Google, Mercedes, GM, Ford, BMW, Audi, Oxford University, Nissan and Volvo, the reality is certainly moving closer.

As for swivel seats, mobile workspaces and instant meeting rooms, that’s viable now.

Businesspeople have been crying out for a truly mobile workplace for years – and for those who spend hours each day pounding the motorways, and particularly those who regularly find themselves stuck in rush hour tailbacks, the opportunity to pull over and plug into an in-car system is a welcome solution. Add to that, the ability to adjust the seats to create more space, or hold an impromptu meeting, or bash out some emails with an espresso while the traffic dies down – all without leaving the warmth of your car – is certainly a feasible concept.

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Automotive commentators seem to be enjoying this new innovation from Rinspeed – with comments ranging from “amazing” and “fanciful” to “barking mad”. But the overriding sentiment is that parts of the XchangE are indeed practical, and many elements of this forward-thinking creation could appear in future vehicles – particularly as many of them were developed together with major automotive suppliers including TRW, Harman, Georg Fischer Automotiv and Evonik.

Right now, this is an eye-opening design that seems too good to be true. But Regus, ever the innovator, has played its trump card by stamping its name all over the project and yet again, going the extra mile to ‘be the first’ and push its branding to new audiences. This idea has spread like wildfire across the media and will continue to do so, both during and after the Geneva Motor Show. That’s a huge win for Regus, and a massive one for our industry too.

As we have seen before, the flexible workspace and automotive industries are coming together in ever new and interesting ways, and this latest workspace/auto invention puts yet another new spin on the mobile working phenomenon. What’s next? And whose name will be on it? We can’t wait to find out.

Image: Regus UK press release

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