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back to article MIT plans to roll out 'folding' car

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 …

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Silver badge

Great...

... but round here they're all likely to end up in the canal with the trolleys.

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Coat

Inane comment

Does the one at the front automatically change colour? Or was it just a luck shot?

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Paris Hilton

If you own one of the grey buggys

How would you get it out?

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Paris Hilton

Am I missing something?

Although a fine idea in principal, in practice how would you drive off if another 5 cars had parked in front of you, a la supermarket trolley - do you get the shop to make an announcement of the tannoy.

Bing-bong; "Would the five drivers parked in front of the 6th driver's car please proceed to car-park to move them?"

Bing-bong; "Sorry, Would the now six drivers parked in front of the 7th driver's car please proceed to car-park to move them?"

Perhaps I'm missing something

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Joke

Reminds me...

Of a row of shopping trolleys.

Will you need a £1 coin to fit in the little chain release slot.

Odds on I'd STILL get the one with the bloody wonky wheel and a mind of it's f**king own!

And I'd have to take out all the crap that the last lazy b**tard left behind.

J.A.

coz they HAVE GOT to be kidding!

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Avi

I know it's a sign i _really_ need to get a life

But electric cars aren't pollution free. I know I don't need to explain, so I wont.

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Gates Horns

Hmmmm

"Pollution free electricity". Where does that come from?

So the big feckin smoke stacks at the power station 100 miles away doesn't count any more then?

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Oh, please.

"We have reinvented urban mobility."

Gee, where've I heard that one before?

In other news, nobody in a city is going to put up with 'nestling' their car up against anybody else's. And nobody's gonna drive those things on the street along with big-ass delivery vans and SUVs, either.

Utopian folly - not the first time, and not the last I'm sure.

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Stop

Revolutionising urban mobility...

The past is littered with ideas to improve urban mobility - Sinclair C5? Segway? (OK - not entirely dead yet), even the G-whiz and other small electric cars?

They all have the same flaw - most people are scared of being on the road in a tiny electric box at the same time as the "Professional" drivers in HGVs and buses, and rightly so. The same fear applies to cycling and motorcycling: until the rush-hour roads are cleared of large vehicles then small stuff like this is never going to go mainstream.

The best way to revolutionise urban mobility is to restrict trucks to limited delivery hours outside of rush hour (say 2-5am) and organise bus routes to separate them from other vehicles, perhaps more like trams?

Then the cyclists, C5s, Segways, roller-bladers and pod-cars can fill the streets alongside the (slightly) more manageable risks of SUVs and taxis...

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Joke

Huh....

Redundant post, but yeah...

how DO you get car #5 out?

and this pollution free electricity is of course coming out of steve jobs' arse, why do you think so many fanbois crawl up there?

There is the argument that electric engines are LESS polluting since they don't use energy when stopped unlike a petrol engine idling and electric engines can recover energy from braking. But you all knew that.

The one with all the post-its stapled to it with my name on so I don't forget it....

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Flame

missing the point?

I think what most of the previous comments missed is that you wouldn't own one, you'd simply walk to the nearest charging station, swipe your card, and take the first one in the queue.... and you can return it to any other charging station in the system, presumably... you'd then be charged for the distance/time in use i'd suppose....

I may be wrong however...

and anyway they don't look all that safe to me!

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Stop

Folding in half

I've been in the compartment of a shopping trolley when someone attempted to insert a further trolley from behind. What's to stop a traffic jam of these infernal machines turning the occupants into human jam?

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Pirate

If electricity is pollution-free...

Then why do we keep getting told not to leave our TVs on standby? Or is this some new magic electricity that is made out of fairy dust? Or does it just not count if the pollution is all the way over there rather than coming out of the car exhaust?

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Interesting idea...

Reading the website - it's a bit like the white bike plans. You swipe your credit card and take the first one (e.g. you don't own one, you use one of many).

Clever plan: make a 4/6/8 seat vehicle by driving them all hooked up like that

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@Peter Ford and Cars

I've never had an accident or near miss with a lorry or bus, it's always the bloody SUVs and taxis, but mainly "normal" people in "normal" cars that are the problem. I speak as a cyclist and motorcyclist. Ban "normal" cars from city centres - that's the answer.

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Joke

pollution free electricity

maybe they've attached magnets to steve balmer's chair and when he waves it about it generates electricity?

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You don't own a CitiCar ...

all those people asking how you get "your" one out of the stack, you don't. You don't have your own CitiCar, the same way you don't own your own supermarket trolley (well, I don't anyway!)

Commenters seem to have missed

"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."

It will be a bit like the new driverless "cabs" at Heathrow Terminal 5, but you'll have more than one destination you can go to :-)

http://www.holidayextras.co.uk/news/airport/futuristic-transport-for-heathrow-terminal-5-4443.html

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@ Everyone

I'm not sure if people actually read the article.

"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."

So... this would be exactly like the supermarket carts/trolleys. You grab the next one in line and go. Then when you're done, return it to a cart corral or whatever. The issue I see is, do you have hundreds of workers that redistribute these carts across the city? I can see plenty of people taking other forms of transit to a shopping area or something, buying too much stuff to haul on the bus, and then they rent this City Car to get back home. In which case, the commercial areas have no carts left, and the residential areas have way too many.

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Boffin

I've got a better idea for revolutionising urban transport

Long electric cars that a bunch of people can get in at once. To keep costs down, they operate between fixed terminals according to a schedule. In order to avoid traffic jams, they run in tunnels underground.

Flexibility is further enhanced by combining this medium-range transport mechanism with a short-range mechanism consisting of wiggling stick-like appendages at the bottom of the body to propel oneself along the ground.

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Stop

What if?

It all seems well and good! You walk up, swipe your card, jump in and.... oh wait! 16 empty Mc Donald’s bags and a soggy wet passenger seat from the old incontinent woman that drove it 20 mins before you!

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Avi

@Peter Ford

As a London cyclist/motorcyclist, the HGVs are probably the road users that scare me the least.

In approximate order of danger, starting with the greatest:

Minicab - Like a black cab but better camouflaged

Black Cab - Will move in any and all directions apparently randomly, making no use of signalling devices.

Bus - As above, but slower. Indicate for the sheer joy of making orange flashes, rather than to convey information.

SUVs - As below, but with added screaming child, mobile phone and potentially make-up application in progress.

Sports cars - must-see-how-quick-I-can-reach-next-queue.

New drivers at night - Blinding headlamps.

HGV - Lumbering, predictable. Just don't try to undertake on corners.

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clean electricity

I'm so sick of hearing people complain that electricity isn't clean. The point is that it CAN be - we can generate electricity in many different ways, some of which ARE environmentally friendly. So the way forward is to choose to change our electricity generation from those "big feckin smoke stacks" to non-polluting, renewable sources, and then use the electricity to charge up everything else.

Even if we manage to generate all fuel for all internal combustion engines from renewable carbon-neutral sources which don't use up valuable crop land or forest (like all of today's biofuel), we will still be left with the problems from urban smog. Why burn anything at all ?

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ploution free

@ the "But electric cars aren't pollution free" bragade

they probley meen local polutiuon rather then global polution but an elecctic car is "potentley" polution free given a cleen way of genrating mass lecky witch is easer then genrating local movment forces

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Anonymous Coward

@What if?

Damn Steve you beat me to it. Who in their right mind is going to hire one of these things when Freddy Flatulent has filled the thing with fart previously?

Reminds me of the last leg of my infrequent commute journey to London from Birmingham. The 2-coach train from New Street was always chock full of newspapers scattered everywhere, discarded food wrappers, including often half eaten food scattered all over the place and the inevitable accompanying stench. So unless the 'charging' stations are accompanied by a cleaning crew, forget it.

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Paris Hilton

I have a cunning plan

it's for an urban mobility vehicle - it's stackable, cheap and has a quite useful range. It produces no pollution, requires no fuel, and instead relies on a clever transducer which converts the energy in your leg muscles to forward motion.

Perhaps I should go and study at MIT and produce some pretty pictures - all I need to do now is think of something catchy to call it.

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and another prob

is you have to take them from charging point and leave it at a charging point 2 probs with that

1 what is a charging point is not near you

2 what if all the cars end up at one charging point and none where pepol need them

but it could wpork well for park and ride seames train stations airports and the like

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Coat

oh great: yet another new commune from Massachusetts

From the people who gave us the software commune (FSF GPL software contributed to the "programmers of the world unite!" worldwide joint ownership of source code), from the people who gave us the "solution" to the USA's lack of universal healthcare (tax the poor heavily and garnish the welfare dole of the unemployed and garnish the paltry wages of the underemployed), from the people who gave us the dismantling of the U.S. grand patent system because they think that monopolies on all ideas are evil,...

...now that bunch of communists have devised yet another commune: you don't get to own your own car, you are just a user of the pool of death-trap cars packed in like sardines at the rental-recharging center. MIT in Boston, Massachusetts is the epicenter of the new Marx, Engles, Lenin, and Trotsky.

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Joke

third problem

"A quick swipe of a credit card" I asume he means a chip and pin reader if ti is not borken / hacked oh I know lets put and id card reader there as well that

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Coat

@Eric Olson

What would be needed would be a large(-ish) supermarket trolley thingy to be pushed round (low emissions) picking up abandoned MITbuggies....

The one with the Waitrose badge on the pocket, please.

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Paris Hilton

I for one...

... find this a joke. Everyone knows that, in fact, the Jetsons already had the Folding Car many many years ago (in the future. Is that a tear in the space-time continuum?)

PH... cause while she can't fold, isn't a car, wasn't in the Jetsons... but because I want to use that icon.

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Joke

Looks like

Is it just me or does this look a Sinclair C5 thats got fat, which is sort of apt considering its American.

I think their slogan should be "reinventing yesterdays technology tomorrow, only fatter".

Look, it doesn't kill baby seals, it'lll do more than 20mpg, you cant invade a country in it, there's no where to put the gun rack, its not terrorist proof and you'll only get 0.75 of an American in it at best which is not surprising for a mobility scooter with a roof.

On the plus side (for them) its is coal powered, they like that.

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Bob
Go

Think Again..

Similar rental bike systems have been implemented in recent years in some cities (Portland, OR, I believe, plus Paris, Amsterdam, etc.) From reports I've read, they seem to work reasonably well. I assume CitiCar would work like a motorized version of the bikes.

Also, consider Third World cities. Some things that may not have a market in the US or UK could be marketable in, Nigeria, Thailand, India, China, or any of a number of other developing nations. How does CitiCar compare with the new Tata Mini?

As for pollution: most people live in the cities. The same amount of pollution causes much worse effects if you're breathing it out of a tailpipe, rather than if it's 100 miles away in a sparsely populated area. Also, single source polluters (such as power plants) are easier to control. In spite of their bad reputation, power plants still produce more power with higher efficiency and less pollution than personal automobiles.

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Bob

About Shared Cars...

Shared car services like ZipCar have also been around a while. Zip Car is rather popular in Boston and many other places. You reserve a car, pick it up from a Zip Car lot, and when you're done, you put it back. All those comments about getting your car full of McDonald's wrappers from an incontinent former user don't seem to be destroying ZipCar's success. CitiCar looks a lot like a stackable electric Zip Car.

Zip Car isn't for everybody, of course. But that's OK, it's for enough people that they have a viable business.

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Alert

Lots of bad ideas here

@Eric Olson: Good point -- in the supermarket parking lot, there are guys who go out and collect shopping carts and bring them back in. Traffic patterns for these wouldn't be random, and they're a bit hard to move all stacked up.

Also, MIT's in a very densely populated neighborhood -- albeit mostly populated with college kids. So parking is really tight. So in Cambridge (MA, US), or maybe Manhattan and London, this sort of thing might reach critical mass. But most Americans and many Europeans live in lower-density neighborhoods or suburbs, and want a car to bring them home.

@Michael: What's a chip & PIN reader? Not found in America! We use credit cards with magnetic strips on the back, and swipe them. Some use PINs, actually, but that's generally limited to debit cards; credit requires signatures (often waived on small purchases like gasoline -- though that's not so small any more).

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Silver badge

So how long will it take ...

... before someone finds a hack that will make it break down in-between charging points the next time it's used?

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Hose down!

Odd that so many think that the previous occupants will make the car unusable. Ever been in a taxi lads? AFAIK, they have previous occupants...

Anyway, I imagine each charge station will have a eastern european cleaning team at the ready. Quick hose down of the hard seats and away you go.

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Black Helicopters

It's not Just Shared Cars, it's Shared Electric Cars!

Can anyone point to any stats that claim that car-sharing schemes actually work, and if they do work does this take cars off the road, or just add more occasional users to the road who would otherwise take a bus or cab?

"""Pollution free electricity". Where does that come from?"" Presumably when dropped into the canal with the other shopping trolleys the wheels will act like turbines to produce Hydro power?

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Idealists

This is a great idea for someone with a Doctorate who has very little left in the real world. But in a controlled enviornment like say a military base or one of M$ compounds it would work if anyone with a card could take the first one.

Think about all the driving accidents, you are actually up someones a$$ before you even hit.

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Generic Title

I like the Idea of hiring 1, 2 or 3 modules connected together, would be great with built in intercoms.. could have minibus size chain of 6 lol.. however seeing some guy returning them to base in a chain of 40 or so would be cool!

just dont think they'll catch on in the UK unless they are treated like hire cars, ie inspected on return. if they are just left then they'll become tramp houses. or mobile skips...

and dont think about replacing buses there are still people who cant drive! a compliment only!.

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Anonymous Coward

Red ken

isn't this what Red Ken is trying to achieve with his (wrongly named) Congestion tax?

I suspect it's all just so much fantasy, but you'll prolly find his idea is a London filled with cute smog free (ha ha) ickle wickle cars that don't need to withstand a collision with a badly driven Range Rover Sport... (coz there won't be any RRS there..)

That would be a better idea if he also could tell us how to produce the electricity they all us cleanly. But, still. Maybe it's a noble fantasy.

I'm going to run for the door now so I don't get shot/hacked-to-bits/flamed/sworn at

(note: I didn't say it was my idea... Personally, I think hydrogen cars are best, or electric ones with efficient geothermal powerstations - yip, still running for the door)

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Vaction

I see these as being the most viable at vacation hotspots/tourist attractions. Where incidentally there are a number of similar options already.

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Dead Vulture

What about non-tropical climates?

I don't know about the rest of you but I live in a place where there is a minimum of 15cm of snow on the ground for 6 months of the year, so unless they are going to put track options on these things they'll be useless for half the year. Also best not let your battery die where I live, cause if you do it freezes and needs to be replaced. I'll leave it to your imaginations as to what glare ice could mean for this car.

*Dead vulture icon 'cause I think the idea was a still birth*

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Bronze badge

Good idea, but.....

With the "last back, first out" method of stacking, the cars at the front will seldom get fully charged, whilst the ones at the back will hardly ever be used.

What they need is a "last back, last out" methodology where all the cars get a chance to recharge fully and all get roughly equal usage.

So a good idea but the stacking method is fatally flawed, you need to return to one end of the stack but remove from the other end or have the battery pack removed when stacking and a fully charged one inserted.

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Anonymous Coward

So how many trips are we supposed to take?

When I go shopping I tend to try to get all my trips done at once. I figure that helps save energy because I'm not having to drive into town on multiple days. With these things you either own one and get it stuck in the middle or you pick up your groceries. Drive home store them, Drive back to the city, do your next bit of shopping and then drive home store those packages.. rinse, repeat.

It is slightly more convenient then a bus because you can hall more packages, but you still can't shop at multiple stores without hauling everything you've purchased along with you.

I think it would be more useful if you owned one and they put a handle on the side and make them light enough you can pull it out from the stack on your own. Then you just need to remember which one is yours.

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improvement

Any claimant to revolutionize transportation has to show their invention is an *improvement*. OK, citycars fold up so parking is easier. But you don't own one. They're too small for me and my four kids. I betcha they only go 30mph. And the fold up, which is less good in a crash than it is in a parking lot. So we get one feature and give up 20. Huge improvement, right? But enough to get that grant proposal through...

What would be an improvement is lighter-weight, recycleable materials for the structures of conventional cars, a lighter, more efficient powerplant, attentive and courteous drive-by-robot controllers.

Or just ban the things. Bulldoze all american cities (which would be a good idea in any case) and rebuild for rail transit. Perhaps we'll get a shot at this when sea level rises over most of our coastal cities. Hmmm, global warming as an opportunity. It's the american way.

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Bob

Market Forces

Whether or not these "work" is an issue of market forces. They don't have to replace all current automobiles, or even most, to be successful, or even be useful to anyone on this board. If they can find a market niche, then all power to them.

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Unhappy

Disappointing...

It's a shame that MIT (which is in Cambridge) provided a picture which is plainly in New York.

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Stop

The worst of both worlds.

OK, so you get your own little bubble, but this more like a bus than a taxi. I can get a taxi to my front door, but I have to take one of these to its very own "bus station". On a good night I can flag a taxi down on most major thoroughfares, but with these I have to go to the station. And while the bus has a schedule which more of less guarantees that I'll get home, there's no guarantee there'll be any of these left when I reach the station, unless they overproduce significantly. Which kind of defeats the environmentally friendly thing, doesn't it?

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Happy

Good idea

I was thinking the other day about rail transport....and thinking.....most of the time, the railway system is "empty" - i.e. you are waiting at a station for maybe 20 minutes and no trains pass or stop....meaning this time is wasted....

Why not have, at each station, some cars (like these) but adapted for use on rails.

Then instead of waiting for a crowded train, you "hail" a Train Car....which is fortunately "parked" on a siding near by.....and which drives itself to the platform and you can then get in.

If the whole of the train line were converted to run these "Train cars", your journey would be faster (as it doesn't need to stop at any station in between) and once you get out, the Train car would park itself, ready for the next passenger(s).

This would be safer (no mugger on the train), more secure, faster and more efficient (as only trains "in use" would be running.....no more empty trains running "just in case" one passenger might want it).

If the system were automated and lightweight Train cars were made, then this could be a much better transport system.

And it could be adapted to replace buses and coaches on roads.....no more empty buses being driven around or having to return to a central depot every night.

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transportation was already re-invented

it's called a "motorcycle" or even a "scooter". You can stack two of them in a normal car stall, or three if they're small enough. But that's not the agenda being pushed. Otherwise San Francisco would not have removed most of the parking benefits of small efficient two wheelers, and allowed car parks to charge full SUV rates instead of much cheaper rates for motorcycles. No wonky folding tech, no utopian kumbaya power sources, still with fuel efficiencies of 40-120MPG. And they don't crush a dozen people when control is lost.

And now there's even three wheel variations. But that's not the point-with electric and "village cars". The point is control. Control movement by cutting power or shutting off the rental/release mechanism. Install intrusive GPS since it's the city/government that owns the car so it's their "right" to do anything to preserve it. Limited range so you can't go too far. Riots over food or electricity or voting fraud? Oops, the cars don't unlock and the power's switched off until "order is restored".

Why else do you think good liberal/socialist causes really want uncontrolled fuel sources like gasoline and biodiesel eliminated, replaced with easily metered and centrally controlled electricity? Rolling Blackouts were just the test.

If these people *really* cared about "changing how America commutes", they'd encourage a motorcycle culture, scooters in urban areas and larger displacement bikes for the long haul. You can't blame weather in California, but I didn't see very many bikes at the last few big "anti-war/no blood for oil" protests. Or at the last Algorean carbon credit fraud sale.

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