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A self-driving Tesla? Tantalizing but not practical

As concept cars go, this one will generate plenty of attention.

Based on an autonomous Tesla Model S and designed by Swiss auto firm Rinspeed, the XchangE offers a glimpse of how what we experience behind the wheel could be very different in the future.

XchangE by Rinspeed
Source: Rinspeed
XchangE by Rinspeed

How different?

Rinspeed said the XchangE allows drivers to go truly hands-free. In fact, it seems more like a rolling lounge than a traditional car.

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The vehicle features front seats that swivel 180 degrees, so those passengers can face ones in the back. Imagine holding a conversation with friends while nobody is watching the road, let alone holding the steering wheel!

And that's just the start. The XchangeE features multiple screens so passengers can watch videos, play games or check the map. Rinspeed even imagines an espresso machine being placed inside the XchangE.

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Though the concept is generating a lot of buzz and the auto industry is moving closer to self-driving cars, we still have a long way to go before vehicles like the XchangE become reality.

The biggest obstacle will be getting regulators to sign off on the technology because of potential dangers.

Even after the first autonomous cars are cleared for driving, don't expect to see cars where front seats swivel to face the back. The technology for ensuring the safety of everyone in a car is nowhere close to making vehicle designers confident.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said for some time that autonomous-drive vehicles are coming, but even he admits those cars will still need a driver behind the wheel.

Last year, he told the Financial Times that 90 percent of driving could eventually be handled by autonomous-drive cars. Beyond that would be a stretch.

"My opinion is it's a bridge too far to go to fully autonomous cars," Musk told the FT. "It's incredibly hard to get the last few percent."

In the meantime, it's fun to imagine.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.

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