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Old January 27th, 2006, 06:00 AM   #1
hkskyline
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MIT's Stackable Car

Stackable car could ease urban sprawl: MIT touts 'minimal footprint'
For CanWest News Service
14 January 2006



You may want to rethink that gas-guzzling SUV when you see the new stackable, rechargeable robot car from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The tiny two-seater vehicle is the latest project from the school's Smart Cities group.

"Car design has become a very incremental thing. In some very real sense, all cars are basically the same," said William Mitchell, director of the group.

"Car designers have become very good at tweaking variants for the different markets and price ranges. We were really looking for this critical rethink that would open up new possibilities rather than incrementally tweaking the standard idea of an automobile."

The MIT architects, designers and engineers' City Car concept is anything but an ordinary car.

Instead of a conventional engine, robotic wheels power the car. Each wheel contains a drive motor, suspension, steering and brakes, eliminating the transmission and engine and creating space within the vehicle.

The wheels are also designed to rotate 360 degrees, enabling the car to move sideways.

Mitchell and his team wanted to create "a minimal-footprint personal-transportation device that will work in conjunction with public transportation," he said.

The communal vehicles are designed for stacking in lines, like shopping carts. Stacks of City Cars would sit outside major traffic points such as subways and supermarkets.

Commuters would jump in, swipe their credit cards and then drive off. When the car is dropped off at a later time, it is returned to the rear of the stack.

The stacks double as charging stations, feeding electricity to the cars, so that by the time a car returns to the front of the stack it is charged and ready to go.

Mitchell said the idea is to use mass transit for high-capacity, high-speed, point-to-point travel and then switch to a City Car for the last kilometres.

"In a city like Toronto, for instance, which has fairly efficient public transportation going out into the suburbs, you'd put stacks on the last station of the train line, so you could drive in in the morning, drop off your little car, and pick up another one in the evening when you went back home."

The car will offer an unprecedented level of customization, thanks to new display technologies.

"So you can imagine as you get into one of these little cars, you not only adjust the seats and the music, it knows who you are according to your stored profile," Mitchell said.

"It knows what colour you want your car to be and what sort of bumper stickers you want on it and does that electronically."

Mitchell and his design team, which includes Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry, anticipate delivering the concept to General Motors this summer. GM will then build the prototype.

The MIT team chose electricity to power its car because they wanted to move away from gasoline-driven vehicles but didn't see hydrogen as a viable option.

Mitchell said the latter requires expensive new infrastructure and still has a number of complex technical issues to resolve.

The stackable, rechargeable cars solve problems that have dogged previous electric vehicles, which have required a huge number of batteries and are unable to go very far.

By using the City Car for short trips and recharging them in the stacks, the MIT group makes electric vehicles feasible.
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Old January 27th, 2006, 08:19 PM   #2
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Haha, cute.
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Old January 27th, 2006, 08:50 PM   #3
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Reminds me of those shopping carts.....the way they can connect together
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Old February 4th, 2006, 05:29 AM   #4
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cool
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Old February 4th, 2006, 08:12 PM   #5
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Ha, these things would be great for Shanghai. Too bad nobody would buy one if everyone else still drives regular autos: I wouldn't want to be wrecked in one of these.
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Old February 4th, 2006, 11:03 PM   #6
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They're definately awesome, but the concept for them seems perverse; they would be replacing walking trips with car trips…

The opposite seems much more beneficial; drive from your house to a station and park there.
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Old February 7th, 2006, 05:25 PM   #7
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I think they would make sense in some of the less dense, more sprawling cities where walking to the nearest transport interchange is not practical. It may be quick and easy to get into a city centre once you're at the train station but if you live 5 miles away from the nearest one then you can see why people commute by car. If, however, it's more practical to drive to that station and take the train to the city centre then I imagine more people would use public transport.
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Old March 10th, 2008, 10:06 AM   #8
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MIT tackles urban gridlock with foldable car idea

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 7 (Reuters) - Wouldn't it be nice to drive a car into town without worrying about finding a parking space?

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised just such a vehicle, a futuristic "City Car" that could even drive itself.

Once at your destination, the vehicle's computers would, at the press of a button, look for a parking spot behind others like itself, then fold roughly in half so you could stack it there as you would a shopping cart.

"We have reinvented urban mobility," said Bill Mitchell, a professor in architecture and director of the project at an MIT think tank in Cambridge, just outside Boston.

The vehicle hasn't yet been built. But a miniature mock-up version has gone on display at a campus museum, and there are plans to build a full-scale model this spring.

The dozen or so engineers and architects on Mitchell's team are confident their computer-generated work is on target.

They feel their golf cart-sized vehicle could provide a novel solution to the chronic traffic congestion afflicting cities across the United States, Europe and Asia -- not to mention pollution and energy use, since it would run on a rechargeable battery, the researchers say.

On the drawing board, their two-seater is roughly half the size of a typical compact automobile and a little smaller than the Smart car made by Daimler's Mercedes-Benz.

"It's a virtual computer on wheels," said Franco Vairani, designer of the vehicle's foldable frame, which he predicts will shrink the car to as little as an eighth the space needed to park the average car. While parked, it would hook up to an electricity grid for recharging, he added.

Hundreds could be stacked around a city and "you would just go and swipe your (credit) card and take the first one available and drive away," Vairani said, seated by his computerized drawing board.

People wouldn't have to worry about where to park their cars in town and automobiles would take up less urban space, leaving more room for parks and walkways, he added.

Peter Schmitt, a team engineer, says the car would have independently powered robotic wheels and be controlled using a computerized drive-by-wire system with a button or joystick.

Mitchell said he would like to bring the car to the manufacturing stage within the next three to four years.

But a key consultant for the project, Christopher Borroni-Bird, director of the Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts at U.S. automaker General Motors Corp, said he doesn't think City Car is quite ready yet for the road.

"What we have is a very intriguing concept," Borroni-Bird told Reuters in a telephone interview. "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."
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