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iPhone car ignition powers Swiss concept

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  February 19, 2009 11:28 AM

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An array of automotive-themed iPhone applications – accelerometers, parking reminders, racing games – are little more than cute amusements for waiting in the dentist's office. But the most innovative and useful auto app isn't available for download - it controls a concept car made by Rinspeed, the wild Swiss company responsible for last year's submersible Lotus Elise.

Open the fighter jet canopy of the Rinspeed iChange, climb into the center driver's seat, and plug in your iPhone. A green starter button graphic appears; press it, and the electric sports car is ready to go. Another button closes the canopy, while another raises it several inches to accommodate two rear seat passengers (hence the word "Change"). Need to double-park and grab a quick sandwich? No problem, the hazard indicator switch is there, too, as well as the headlight controls.

It's official, iPhone fanatics: song recognition and 3-D topographic maps are officially lame.

The iPhone ignition is part of the car's fancy Harman/Kardon infotainment system, which looks a lot like Windows Media Center (watch it all here). Rinspeed doesn't say what happens if your iPhone is low on battery or freezes in the middle of a long road trip. Sync with the wrong computer, however, and it's a safe assumption your car keys are gone.

A phone-operated car is about as necessary as heated Japanese toilet seats, but it's another leap in ignition technology (and one small step for Apple). Standard keyless ignition systems, which combine a push-button electronic start with a radio frequency-enabled fob, enable drivers to quickly unlock and start the engine as if they were stealing an idling car. All manufacturers include a traditional key in case the computer brains fail, but as a dream car maker, Rinspeed is probably less concerned about real-world troubles.

Everything else about the iChange - eco-friendly this, carbon-neutral that - is expected from a futuristic electric car. Rinspeed, however, deserves huge credit. The tiny company, which started retrofitting cars with sunroofs in the 1970s and became legendary for tuning Porsches, has made it a tradition to shock the world each year with concepts like the iChange. Look for it next month at the Geneva Auto Show.

All photos copyright Rinspeed





This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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16 comments so far...
  1. sweet wheels!

    Posted by DI$CO February 19, 09 12:55 PM
  1. Sooner or later, our whole lives will be powered by iPhones and iPod Touches. But starting our cars? What if the application gets deleted? How will one start one's car?

    Posted by Bob February 19, 09 01:01 PM
  1. So when your car is in for service, you are without your phone for a day??

    Posted by Chris February 19, 09 04:59 PM
  1. It would make sense if the iPhone acts as a remote starter and not the only way to start the car.

    Posted by Steve February 19, 09 05:41 PM
  1. I'll use my iphone to start my car when, and ONLY when, we've solved the "no cut & paste" problem. Seriously.

    Posted by Kit February 19, 09 06:47 PM
  1. I bought iPhone day 2 n lost value.
    Their r many PDA,s who can do better job. No iPhone to start car.

    Posted by Gope Gidwani February 20, 09 06:25 AM
  1. Kit,

    Download Clippy from Cydia.

    Posted by =D February 20, 09 08:22 AM
  1. Will buy iPhone if it comes with that car!

    Posted by Robin Low February 22, 09 04:43 AM
  1. Apple will probably block it because they didn't think of it first.

    Posted by Swarley February 22, 09 09:51 PM
  1. If I buy the car, do I get the iPhone with it? Or will that be an additional charge like "New England Rust Proofing?"

    Posted by golus February 23, 09 09:24 AM
  1. Wow 2 crappy products unite! Just say no to iCrap.

    Posted by no February 23, 09 11:58 AM
  1. Seriously. You i-idiots need to get a clue. What possible redeeming qualities can be gained by having the control center of your car in your phone?
    Makes me sick to my stomach to see the amount effort that goes into designing stupid product that somehow utilize the ipod.
    Did you get your ipod/phone dock/toilet paper dispenser yet (real product) ?

    Posted by flabbergasted February 23, 09 01:11 PM
  1. flabbergasted --

    Try looking up the word "fun" in an encyclopedia.

    That's as close to fun as you'll ever get.

    Posted by Bubba February 27, 09 02:17 AM
  1. What about Cut and Paste, Global Search, Flash. Flash.

    Posted by CampfireSteve March 2, 09 11:06 AM
  1. that's just i stupid...

    Posted by j w ogle March 5, 09 01:43 PM
  1. folks....its a CONCEPT car. not a real production car. Stop taking it so seriously.
    by definition a concept car isn't pratical

    Posted by yes March 11, 09 08:36 AM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
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Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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