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Transportation Hardware Idle Technology

MIT Media Lab Rolls Out Folding Car 222

kkleiner writes "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, the car can actually fold. After folding, the car takes up about a third of a normal parking space. The Hiriko, Basque for 'urban car,' folds as the rear of the car slides underneath its chassis. Every square foot counts."

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MIT Media Lab Rolls Out Folding Car

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  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @02:49PM (#38820737)

    How about cars as big as SUVs shouldn't be considered for city use?

  • by undeadbill ( 2490070 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @02:53PM (#38820787)

    MIT is showcasing this vehicle, because some of their forecasts are showing that larger vehicles in urban environments are going to be on the decline. This vehicle is intended for use inside urban environments as a shared vehicle (like ZipCars), as most urban vehicles are only used ~10% of the time. It also is electric powered, and will have a variety of electronic safety features. It is NOT intended for highway use amongst homicidal SUV drivers, so those people can continue to "drive" with a clear conscience, yakking on their phones and running over cyclists, etc. without having to worry about something larger leaving a serious dent in their day.

    The showcase vehicle is a sized-down prototype. It is not intended to be driven by ants or other arthropods. Actually, it would be the first publicly viewed prototype, but I've seen concept photos of vehicles in Japan with designs like this. This prototype is going into production with models coming out in 2013, so obviously there are businesses and municipalities already putting in orders to fund this.

    Which means that folks should be paying attention to the sub-text of the discussion going on in the video- there is an expectation that there will be more people in cities, and fewer resources to go around.

  • by ZeroSumHappiness ( 1710320 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @02:54PM (#38820805)
    1. This is a half-scale prototype.

    2. If it meets FMVSS then it's the SUV driver's fault for not being able to see it and the SUV manufacturer's fault for making such a huge vehicle to begin with. The SUVs are the unsafe cars here, but they're acceptable to the population because the risk is to others, not the SUV driver.

    This is a prisoner's dilemma problem -- You want a safer car for your personal safety so you buy bigger, but in doing so threaten everyone else. This makes all cars large, fat, heavy, costly and full of energy in the inevitable impact. If, however, everyone accepted that it's in the best interest of the population to optimize for average safety, cars should be much smaller since they would then have lower energy in an impact (helping in accidents where property or pedestrians are hit in addition to other cars) and be more maneuverable in order to avoid impacts.

    Also, due to the relative rarity of tractor trailers and the fact that professional drivers have faaaaaaaaar better safety records than non-professionals those tractor trailers don't impose much of a risk even in a small car.

    Now, will people die in accidents that they would have survived had they been in a larger car? Yes. However, will people /avoid/ potentially fatal accidents that they would have been in had there been a larger car on either side? Yes.

    And I haven't even touched on the environmental and financial benefits of smaller cars.

    Also, yes, I acknowledge that some families require larger vehicles to haul around hockey gear and three kids and whatnot. The vast majority do not. The vast majority could make do with better packing strategies including such things as roof racks/roof bins.
  • by berashith ( 222128 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:17PM (#38821115)

    size / weight is absolutely an issue. I have spoken to many parents who want to buy their 16 year old as big of a car as possible, because they know that 16 year olds are idiots and will wreck the car. Visibility doesnt matter, and responsibility isnt programmed into the kids yet. The parents are concerned for only one thing, the safety of THEIR kid. The mass of the vehicle gives safety, and their are studies to show that reducing weight simply to improve mileage actually increases death rates.

    I am not defending this, and it actually makes me sick, but it is impossible to dismiss the advantage of size in a collision.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:17PM (#38821121)

    "How about cars as big as SUVs shouldn't be considered for city use?"

    Should be interesting to get goods into a city when trucks can't get downtown.

    Here's an interesting factoid, a car as big as an SUV is not the same as a delivery truck, and ordinances could be written to allow one while prohibiting the other.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:35PM (#38821331)

    My brother in law was taking his State Trooper exam and one of the areas of the test was accident reconstruction. He told me one of the accidents he received was one where an 18 wheeler hit a SmartCar from behind at 45 mph, which pushed it forward to stationary UPS-style truck. When all was said and done, there were only 11 inches left of the SmartCar. All 3 occupants in the SmartCar died. While I am all for smaller cars and better city parking, I will never purchase one of these types of cars as long as huge SUVs, Delivery Trucks, and 18 Wheelers are still on the roads I travel on. So .. never :P

    Is there any reason to believe that any car would have let the occupants survive being smashed between a 20 ton 18 wheeler and a 5 ton stationary UPS truck (both of which have hard frames that don't crumple upon impact)? That's a lot of force for a car to absorb. Maybe we should all be driving military tanks to protect us from the rare small-car smooshed-between-two-trucks accidents.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @04:10PM (#38821731)

    Here's an interesting factoid, a car as big as an SUV is not the same as a delivery truck, and ordinances could be written to allow one while prohibiting the other.

    So what size SUV are you talking about? Midsize or full size? What about a pick-up truck or van (commercial, personal, minivan)? It's a slippery slope with that type of legislation.

    Ordinance: All private automobiles over 3 meters in length or 2 meters in width or weighing more than 750kg (excluding passengers) are excluded from the downtown business district. When parked, vehicle must be capable of being compacted to no more than 2 meters in length. Commercial delivery vehicles may purchase a permit for a time-restricted exception to the ordnance for active deliveries only - permit fees are based on hours/days of access and size of vehicle. Emergency vehicles are excepted. Disabled driver's vehicles are subject to the same restrictions, or they may use our on-call paratransit system for transportation from park-and-ride lots to the business district. All drivers are encouraged to park outside of the business district and use free public transportation or free citybikes (subsidized through parking fees for all cars). Fossil Fuel powered vehicles must pay a downtown pollution surcharge. Families/groups are not excepted from the ordinance and are encouraged to use public transit facilities.

  • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @04:23PM (#38821843) Homepage Journal
    Don't cherry pick data in order to support your pet agenda.
  • by cforciea ( 1926392 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @04:46PM (#38822111)
    No, but they are more likely to kill somebody else when they hit another vehicle. They also have worse maneuverability, and thus are more likely to get in accidents. When you drive an SUV, you get a little more safety for yourself at the cost of a little safety for everybody on the road near you. Everybody would be more safe if everybody drove small cars than if they all drove SUVs.
  • by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @04:51PM (#38822157)

    If you can create the mythical brick in the road capable of killing someone when hit then I see nothing wrong with him bringing up rollover accidents. It's not exactly cherry picking data when you both are just bringing up possible scenarios out of no data in particular. Besides if this brick is lethal because it's thrown by the vehicle in front of you then it's more of a matter of the safety of the windshield than the size of the car. With this in mind, If we consider that an SUV can reach a much higher speed than one of these urban vehicles then the SUV could actually be less safer for its passengers in the flying brick scenario.

    I don't think this car is actually "folding" instead it's the equivalent of a full-size smart car than can stand on it front wheels by articulating the rear ones forward. With the rear wheels in the normal driving position, I don't think this vehicle is any more dangerous than the current smart cars.

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