City dwellers who are frustrated with the increasingly annoying issue of finding parking spaces will be happy to hear that someone is making one of the tiniest cars that can actually park in the tiniest spots and maneuver into them in various ways.
The vehicle is being described as the "ultra flexible micro-car for mega-cities," and goes by the name of EO Smart Connecting Car 2. It not only drives like any typical car, but it can move diagonally, sideways and even turn on the spot all while maintaining a comfortable seating position for the driver and passenger. It even shrinks down a bit.
Driverless, or autonomous, parking is now a reality with the car. Down the road, its developers hope to extend driver functionality to include autopilot, which is somehow similar to the way pilots operate aircraft.
The vehicle, designed by nine engineers at the DFKI Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, was built in three years and features a "rapid control prototyping" system. All four wheels can rotate 90 degrees, which means it can spin in a perfect circle and move sideways, which could make parallel parking as obsolete as the VCR.
"The whole process—the transition between normal driving and driving sideways—takes about four seconds," said vehicle project manager Timo Birnschein.
"It is able to reduce its own size by about 80 centimeters, which makes it almost as small as a bike in length. And with this kind of feature you can go into very tiny parking spaces," he added.
The neatest feature of the vehicle is the fact that it can shrink itself down if necessary, from about 8.2 feet to 4.9 feet. On the drawing map is a "platoon" concept in which EO 2 cars can be connected, creating a train of the smart cars.
While it won't win any speed awards and likely isn't the vehicle to take on the autobahn, given its maximum speed of 40mph, it can travel 44 miles on one single four-hour full electric charge.
The second version is more reliable and nearly road-legal, according to Birnschein. The irony, he adds, is that there are so many techno futuristic features getting the car onto the real road in the near future that pose some big challenges.
It will happen, believes Birnschein, who uses the analogy of how rotary phones became push button phones then morphed into cell phones and finally into smartphones.
"It will be the same with computer power and autonomy," he said. "In the next 10 years, we will most likely see autonomous cars from big car manufacturers, the Mercedes S class will have autonomous functions within three or four years."