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Scientists unveil incredible shrinking car

The Local · 6 Mar 2012, 16:02

Published: 06 Mar 2012 16:02 GMT+01:00

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At just 2.10 metres (seven feet) long, the futuristic cobalt-blue two-seater "pod" is not exactly roomy but was pulling in the crowds nevertheless with its extraordinary features.

If a parking space looks too small, drivers can reduce the car's length by 50 centimetres. For further ease, the wheels can turn in a full circle, allowing a driver to pull up to a space and then move sideways into it.

With built-in sensors to avoid collisions, the car can also drive itself and can be summoned by smartphone, explained Timo Birnschein, the project leader, from the German Centre for Artificial Intelligence.

"If you are in the office, you can press a button on your smartphone and it will come and pick you up. We already have the technology to do this. It will be happening in five to six years," he said.

His team of 10 has been working on the car for 15 months and hope to make it roadworthy in the very near future.

It has a top speed of 55 kilometres (35 miles) per hour and a range of 100 kilometres when its two batteries are fully charged. It creates additional energy from the turning of its wheels.

But the real innovation, explained Birnschein, is its ability to "dock" with other similar cars to create what he called "road trains" of up to 20 cars, driven by just the person at the front.

In this configuration, all the cars automatically share the energy available. At the moment, it is just a prototype, so there is no estimate on the potential cost of the technology.

Story continues below…

And with space at a premium, there is currently no room for storage. "We're working on that," promised Birnschein.

The CeBIT runs until March 10, with around 4,200 exhibitors from 70 countries showcasing the latest technology.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

01:22 March 7, 2012 by Den Maskin
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
09:44 March 7, 2012 by euan.dykes
"It creates additional energy from the turning of its wheels." In other words an energy recovery system, using the kinetic energy to generate an electrical current to recharge the battery. But often batteries can discharge at way higher currents than they recharge at, so you'll need something in between like a super capacitor. Then bang goes up the price tag, because those puppies aren't cheap. Add all the cost of the additional electronics and computer systems, it's just going to be out of reach for most folks. Any coincidence that the price wasn't mentioned in the article?
22:25 March 9, 2012 by DrGideonPolya
Great article. Re "there is currently no room for storage" one supposes that a laterally shrinkable roof rack and a tarpaulin would suffice unless that's too low tech for current sensibilities. Indeed the ultimate space and footprint shrinkage would be a crash-proof metal cage involving an upright driver with ultimately solar energy-driven electric motor and centre of gravity below and storage space above. Even better would be shrinkage to zero space with a combination of renewable energy-driven public transport and leg-power (Shanks' pony).
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