Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MIT Media Lab Rolls Out Folding Car

MIT Media Lab Rolls Out Folding Car:

The Hiriko, designed by MIT Media lab, is part of MIT's plan to develop smart and efficient technology for tomorrow's cities.

You think European cars are small now, wait till the Hiriko takes to the roads in Spain’s northern Basque country. The two-seater is about the size of a SmartCar, but when parked, it can actually fold. After folding the car takes up about a third of a normal parking space. This is the kind of car you need, I suppose, when the city roads have become too crowded for all those space-wasting Mini Coopers. Hence the Hiriko, Basque for “urban car,” folds as the rear of the car slides underneath its chassis. Every square foot counts.

The car is the brain child of MIT Media lab. They’re collaborating with seven firms in Spain’s Basque country part of Hiriko Driving Mobility. Its primary use will be along the line of ZipCars, owned by the city and hired out temporarily. But if you simply want to be the only guy on the block with a folding car, you can buy one for about €12,500.

The Hiriko runs on electricity, of course, since there’s no room for a gas tank. It’s part of MIT’s goal of building a next-generation vehicle. Mechanical control systems that are traditionally found in the steering column, throttle, and brakes are replaced with electrical, drive-by-wire technology. The motor, which is located in the wheels, can drive about 120 kilometers (75 miles) when fully recharged. Although you may want to stop along the way to stretch your legs. You exit the car George Jetson style, by pushing open the glass window and stepping out. And the car’s smart: its top speed is programmed to obey city speed limits.

The Hiriko prototype is being presented to European Union president Jose Manuel Barroso, and another 20 prototypes are to be built and tested this year. Hiriko Driving Mobility is currently approaching other European cities that might want to build a Hiriko for themselves.

CityCar project is part of their Changing Places program that seeks “How new strategies for architectural design, mobility systems, and networked intelligence can make possible dynamic, evolving places that respond to the complexities of life.” The world population just passed 7 billion on its exponential trajectory upward. And half of those people are living in urban centers, a first in world history. As mentioned in the video, MIT thinks city driving can be much improved. Instead of a bulky, inefficient car they opt for a small, efficient, smart car that is shared by city dwellers. After using the car people will just leave it at the destination for someone else to take.

The Next Web shot this video of the Hiriko at Media Evolution’s The Conference. Check it out and let the half-scale Hiriko prototype fold its way to your city-dwelling heart.

[image credits: the next web via YouTube]

[video credit: the next web via YouTube]

video credit: CityCar