If you had asked … well, anyone … twenty years ago if Porsche would ever build an autonomous-driving electric van, I’m pretty sure 100 percent of people polled would give a resounding and definitive no. These days I’m not so sure. The German sports car company is building SUVs and sedans in overwhelming numbers, the kinds of cars that enthusiasts of the brand couldn’t even have imagined possible in 2001. Where Porsche was once in the business of selling fun and fast machines for drivers, and while it still does that, it is now focused largely on the future of the company. And the future of the company is definitely electric and possibly autonomous. As a way of working within the company to help design a future Porsche which can drive itself, the Renndienst Study van was devised.
There are so many things that an autonomous pod might need baked into its design which Porsche doesn’t already build. For one thing, the interior can be a bit more modular if the “driver” isn’t actually driving.
“We thought about how we could still give a distinctly Porsche flair to a passenger compartment that is so far removed from the classic sports-car interior. And how autonomous driving could be designed,” Mauer explains. “We don’t assume that our customers want to give up using a steering wheel,” continues Mauer. “When I want to drive, I have more cockpit feeling than in any other car. And when I don’t, the driver’s seat can be rotated 180 degrees — with one swivel, it turns to face the other passengers. We worked on materializing these basic ideas for about a year.”
The Renndienst Study’s space capsule exterior is inspired by the Volkswagen Bus that Porsche’s racing team once used as a service van. Designers managed to find a way to give a people carrier the distinctive Porsche design language. Inside the van deploys a unique seating arrangement with a single seat in the front row meant for just the driver. The second row features a pair of sporty bucket seats. The third row is a three-wide bench seat. With seating for six and plenty of room around each passenger, this could be an extremely versatile family truckster. In particular that single front seat is unique among other autonomous shuttles, as it allows the Porsche driver to continue to drive when they so choose. With a low center of mass thanks to the floor-mounted batteries, and wheels pushed to the outer extremities of the chassis, there is still an intense probability that this Porsche van would be quite fun to drive. When you don’t want to drive, like long highway journeys or traffic-riddled cities, the Renndienst allows you to make that choice.
While obviously the Renndienst Study is still nothing more than a concept, it’s pretty interesting to think about Porsche moving forward into an increasingly autonomous future. Porsche’s advanced driver assist systems are already incredible to use, so we can only imagine how much better the company’s future tech will be. One thing we’d love to see is the autonomous tech used to augment the fun driving experience, constantly studying the road ahead to prevent you from making a wrong move, overdriving the corner, or crashing. Autonomous tech might one day be used to make your track laps as quick as possible. Wouldn’t that be something?