One of the maddest things we've seen at the Geneva International Motor Show surely had to be the Orbital Hybrid. This carbike rollerskate from hell easily wins our 'crazier than purple bat poo' award for the simple reason that it's the only car on the show floor that re-invents the wheel.
Okay, re-invent is a strong statement, but the orbital wheels, aka rim riders, on the Orbital Hybrid lack any sort of central hub and resemble Doctor Doom's Doom Roller. We don't know how it works -- witchcraft, most likely -- but we do know each of the front wheels is driven by a small electric motor delivering a 15bhp supplement of power to the primary internal combustion engine at the rear.
Despite being a tiny slip of a 'car', the Orbital Hybrid is littered with innovative new technology. The first of these is a laser-projected head-up display (HUD) from human-machine interface specialists Delphi. The system shows your vehicle's speed in a virtual image hovering just above the end of the bonnet, meaning drivers needn't take their eye off the road to see how fast they're travelling. Interestingly, whereas most HUDs cost a fortune, Delphi tells us this laser model is cheap to manufacture and could find its way into even entry-level cars.
The second system demonstrated in the Sbarra Orbital Hybrid is an infotainment control centre known as Delphi Haptics. Its interface consists of a large, touch-sensitive display, which gives the driver haptic feedback (vibrations) every time an icon is pressed. It allows control and playback of the radio, your Bluetooth mobile phone, and MP3 files via a click wheel-style interface. Sat-nav and vehicle climate-control adjustments are also possible.
Delphi tells us both the HUD and Haptics systems are likely to end up in production cars sometime in the near future. The Sbarra Orbital Hybrid, like most concept machines, is unlikely to go into mass production, but if you have enough cash handy, the car's inventor will gladly build you a custom one-off.
The Orbital Hybrid is so-called because of the orbital (hub-less) wheels, each of which has an integrated motor assisting the main engine. We don't know how on Earth it turns without going all wonky, but it does.
The primary engine is a standard internal combustion model. The exact spec is not yet confirmed, but it looks menacing enough to dissuade any boy racers from trying their luck with you at the traffic lights.
The Delphi haptic system has a capacitive interface that vibrates every time you touch it. The three circular elements towards the bottom -- iPod-style click-wheels -- worked very well in the short time we played with it.
The laser-projected HUD shows your speed in digits that hover just above the bonnet. The laser is fired from the module just ahead of the windscreen, then reflected on a mirror directly in front of the driver, so the image appears to float in space.