MIT Has Designed A Car That Folds in Half
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed a car that could put an end to city gridlock, parking problems and automobile pollution. According to Bill Mitchell, an MIT engineer who is on the project team, the secrets to the car are its ability to fold, and to park itself.
It works like this: when the drive reaches his destination, all that he or she needs to do is press a button and the vehicle's computers will look for a parking spot behind other cars like itself, then the car would fold roughly to half of its size so the drive stack (park) it in the spot.
Of course, the vehicle has not been built yet, but the MIT scientists have built a miniature mock-up version that is now on display at a campus museum. They plan to build a full-scale model this spring that will be roughly half the size of a typical compact car, and even smaller than the Smart Car made by Mercedes-Benz.
The dozen or so engineers and architects on the project are confident their computer-generated work is on target, and feel their vehicle provides a novel solution to chronic urban traffic congestion. It's also eco-friendly, since it would run on a rechargeable battery.
"It's a virtual computer on wheels," said Franco Vairani, designer of the vehicle's foldable frame, which he predicts will shrink the car to as little as one-eighth the space needed to park the average car. While parked, it would hook up to an electricity grid for recharging, he added. Hundreds could be stacked around a city and "you would just go and swipe your (credit) card and take the first one available and drive away," Vairani said, seated by his computerized drawing board.
Peter Schmitt, a team engineer, says the car would have independently powered robotic wheels and be controlled using a computerized drive-by-wire system with a button or joystick.
Mitchell said he would like to bring the car to the manufacturing stage within the next three to four years.
I wish them Godspeed.