Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/10/folding_car/

MIT plans to roll out 'folding' car

'We have reinvented urban mobility'

By Lester Haines

Posted in Science, 10th March 2008 11:26 GMT

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are planning to knock up a full-scale model of their "City Car" - an experimental vehicle which "folds" itself in half and snuggles up to other City Cars in the manner of supermarket trollies.

Artist's impression of MIT folding car in a supermarket trolley stack

The MIT team, led by architecture professor Bill Mitchell, reckons its revolutionary wheels would solve urban transportation problems at a stroke, with pollution-free electric drive and the ability to park in one-eighth of the space of a conventional car. Mitchell declared: "We have reinvented urban mobility."

The designer of the vehicle's foldable frame, Franco Vairani, explained to Reuters that hundreds of the City Cars could be parked around cities at charging points and available for hire with a quick swipe of the credit card. Team engineer Peter Schmitt added that the car would boast "independently powered robotic wheels and be controlled using a computerized drive-by-wire system with a button or joystick".

While MIT will soon unveil its full-scale City Car, and Mitchell says he'd like to see it in production within three or four years, a key project consultant has cautioned against overenthusiasm.

Christopher Borroni-Bird, director of the Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts at General Motors, said: "What we have is a very intriguing concept. It is certainly a very promising idea, but I don't want to say it is ready for production... there's still a lot of work yet to take it from concept to production." ®