Folding Car to Transform Urban Driving…and Make Parallel Parking Obsolete

by Jay London on February 8, 2012

in Alumni Life, Design, Economics, Energy, Engineering, In the News, Modern Geekhood, Research, Transportation

Looking for a parking space in a major city can make public transportation very appealing. The biggest urban driving hassles usually come not with driving itself, but with the stopping, turning, parallel parking, and the can-I-fit-in-this-space challenges that arise when you’ve reached your destination.

Enter the Hiriko (the Basque word for “urban”), a new compact vehicle designed by the MIT Media Lab whose first fleet of 20 vehicles will debut in Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain, in 2013.

From the New York Times:

The pod-like electric vehicle, whose battery pack would be leased, is a two-seater with 4-wheel drive and a range in excess of 100 kilometers, or about 60 miles. Because its wheelbase can collapse, a single parking space can accommodate three vehicles. Driver and passenger enter through a windshield that swings upward.

Instead of a single electric engine, each wheel has an independent dedicated engine, which allows for an amazing degree in control in suspension, steering, and turning. Smaller than a Smart Car, the Hiriko spins and rotates on its axis, a technique that MIT researchers call an “O-turn.” It also moves sideways, making parallel parking obsolete.

Professor Kent Larson leads the car’s Media Lab researcher team. A production model was unveiled before the European Union Commission in Brussels last week. In addition to Spain, future trials are planned in Boston, San Francisco, Berlin, Hong Kong, and Malmo, Sweden. Similar to ZipCar in the United States, the cars will be shared by users who will have access for a few hours at a time. Cars may be sold to individuals in the future, with cost estimates currently ranging around $16,000.

In addition to the Hiriko, a Media Lab team led by doctoral candidates Ryan Chin and William Lark has also created a three-wheel electric vehicle prototype that can function as a bicycle and meets all European bike-lane regulations.

For more information and video on Hiriko (formerly the MIT CityCar), visit the “Changing Places” section on the Media Lab site.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Mc. February 10, 2012 at 2:31 am

Let me wish all the best in Spain to the MIT Media Lab. This prototype is pretty amazing and is exactly what the world and streets of major cities need. The age of cars for 5 people has to end. Let’s face, everybody wants his own vehicle. On the streets the most people you see is driving his own car, this means a lot of urban space lost. The age of unipersonal vehicles has to come and for $16,000 I think is kind of affordable. Beautiful little car. Thanks! John Mc., a 24/7 automotive lover and reader.

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