MIT working on a small, smart ‘City Car’

folding car

This all looks very nice on paper and I’d be one of the first wide-eyed optimists to use one of these things but I just can’t help but think that we’re probably not going to see these on the road in the next three to four years (as MIT hopes).

The full-size version of this “City Car” being developed by the brave men and women at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would not only park itself behind other City Cars, it would also “fold roughly in half so you could stack it there as you would a shopping cart,” according to a Reuters report.

The car would be slightly smaller than the Smart Car that we all know and love except that it would park itself, as mentioned above, and nobody would really own one. It’d kind of be like a ZipCar-like pay-as-you-go rental deal.

“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 an 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.

Sounds pretty cool, but you’d have to have hundreds and hundreds of these things for the parking feature to work since your car would look for other City Cars in order to park and recharge itself. Perhaps cities will create special parking zones just for these cars and use them as a form of first-class public transportation.

Bill Mitchell, the project’s director, wants to get these on the road within three to four years. That seems a bit aggressive but if his team can do it, I’m all for it.

MIT tackles urban gridlock with foldable car idea [Reuters]