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Transportation Technology

MIT Reinvents Transportation With Foldable, Stackable Car 158

Posted by Zonk
from the so-tired-of-owning-a-car dept.
alphadogg writes "Parking in a downtown area is one of the least enjoyable elements of driving. MIT researchers may have found a solution: a car you can fold up before parking. The boxy conveyance folds in half, and the plan is for the vehicle to fit eight in one conventional parking spot. 'Franco Vairani, a Ph.D. candidate at MIT and one of the original designers in the City Car project, said his team is taking a vending-machine approach to city travel. In his vision of the future, people would find a stack of electrical-powered City Cars on nearly every block in the city. When a user would want to drive somewhere in town, he would swipe a smart card or cell phone across an electronic reader and take a car out of the stack. When he gets to a business meeting across town, a shopping mall or their doctor's office, the driver simply leaves the car in a stack at his destination. The drivers don't own the cars. They simply rent them. It's fully self-service. The next person takes a car out of the stack, and off he goes.'"
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MIT Reinvents Transportation With Foldable, Stackable Car

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  • less dupes please (Score:1, Informative)

    by timmarhy (659436)
    this was only on here a few days ago, nice going ZONK
    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @07:54AM (#21305683) Homepage
      Further evidence that "Slashdot editors" are neither editors, nor do they even read Slashdot. The only reason that I believe that they haven't been replaced with very small shell scripts is that I find it hard to believe that a script could do such a bad job.
      • Whats if they just keep the names and outsourced the editors jobs to China?
      • by pipingguy (566974) *
        It's all my fault. I emailed Taco quite some time ago complaining that the "author" attribution was misleading and suggested "editor". Sorry.

        Maybe the title should be "Executive Story Approver".
    • It's not a dupe, per se, it's just that you can now stack eight very similar Slashdot stories into the space formerly occupied by one original.
  • Who cleans them? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fantomas (94850) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:32AM (#21305297)
    I don't want to be in a rush for an early morning business meeting, get the next car out of the vending machine and find the previous renters were a bunch of college students on a party mission the night before...

    Nice idea and reducing number of vehicles in cities is definitely a great goal, though I think the team would have to pay close attention to lessons learned by other projects that have tried to set up publicly shared but autonomous individual transportation mechanisms - that's where I think it would be won or lost. Urban bicycle schemes like the Amsterdam white bikes or neighbourhood car pool sharing comes to mind.
    • Re:Who cleans them? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by packeteer (566398) <packeteer.subdimension@com> on Saturday November 10, 2007 @06:26AM (#21305445)
      Urban bicycle schemes like the Amsterdam white bikes or neighborhood car pool sharing comes to mind.

      I recently spent a bit of time in Paris and Lyon in France. They both has city wide bicycle rentals that work out really well. I think a bike is better suited to this kind of thing. The main problem i see is that Americans don't want to ride a bike. In France i saw many business men in suits riding the bicycles around with their brief case on the back. Without the social stigma of riding a bike in Europe they can do it. In America people believe if your riding a bike its because you got a DUI or your just broke.
      • Too many people are too concerned about what other people think, but then again, Europe is generally much more densely populated than the US and A, and so bike riding is a more feasable option.
        • The USA has some wide open spaces but I believe it is also the home of the skyscraper, there are some urban areas there as well.... I'd guess a few folks live in urban environments there as well as in Europe. Manhattan and Santa Monica seemed pretty similar to European cities in terms of layout last time I was there: I think as another poster has suggested, the reasons for bikes not being attractive in the USA is as much to do with cultural and social reasons as geographical ones.
          • Actually, it has a lot to do with where people live vs. where they work. In many super-urban centers the public transport is good (subway in NY, metro in DC, etc.) and they are heavily used. Unfortunately, public transport can only get you so far out into the sub-urban areas, which is where many americans prefer to live. Often, the choice is a 15 minute car ride to public transport, a 10 minute wait for the train, 40 minutes on the train, and then a 10 minute walk to work. For the same commute, it may only
      • Americans are simply concerned that the bicycle frame will collapse under them. If you want widespread adoption in the US, you'll have to do three things:
        - Reinforce the frames
        - Install cupholders (follow the lead of the automakers)
        - Install a sausage dispenser
      • by westlake (615356)
        The main problem i see is that Americans don't want to ride a bike. In America people believe if your riding a bike its because you got a DUI or your just broke.

        There aren't many American cities or metropolitan districts that approach the density that would be familiar to an Asian or a European.

        The climate isn't always benign. Locally, cyclists were warned to stay off the roads to avoid the punishing heat and humidity this summer.

        Those who attempted it had the look and smell of roadkill.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        We in America have a cultural bend toward using a car and reducing the reluctance to ride a bike or walk to a couple of bullet points is bound to leave out a lot of important factors.

        I once contracted for a company that had an office building and a manufacturing plant about 1/2 mile apart on the same road. They gave me an office but a lot of the work I did was on the machines in their plant. Three or four times a weeks I'd walk down there, carrying a laptop, to do some kind of update.

        Other people in the off
      • Not where I live. Virtually everyone I work with bikes 2-10 miles to work every day, at least until it's too icy. It's kinda backward here - people who drive are a bit looked down upon, TBH. Perception is reality. Assuming bicycling has a stigma associated with it will simply perpetuate the thought.
      • by pipingguy (566974) *
        Executives in suits riding bicycles? What about feeling sweaty/smelling in meetings? A better solution would be to ride in sweats and change into the costume after a shower at the workplace. Oh wait, then the "powerful" would look just like any other plebe on a bike, so that would just not do.
      • by crashfrog (126007)
        In France i saw many business men in suits riding the bicycles around with their brief case on the back. Without the social stigma of riding a bike in Europe they can do it.

        Is that why people generally smell worse in Europe? (I've been there, too.) Because they're riding bicycles around in sweaty woolen suits?

        I'm all for biking, but I just can't see it being a solution for business commuters who can't change or shower when they get to work.

        It is a difference in attitude, but there's advantages to both sides
    • Yeah, the idea seems a bit naive. Anyone that's shared a flat knows that even if you share the cars between a group of people that know each other it seems likely that only a minority will take part in the shared cleaning job. Most won't and so the cars will quickly become too foul to drive. The oddest thing is that if you want socialized transport, buses and trains have already solved the problem - just make the vehicle carry more people and run on fixed route and return to a central depot to be cleaned.

      Co
  • by kooky45 (785515) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:35AM (#21305305)
    /. invents identical stackable stories. Take one, and the next identical one is available in line. The idea was copied from MIT as reported on /. some days ago. [slashdot.org]
  • by mrjb (547783) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:40AM (#21305327)
    Seems ingenious. But remember to GET OUT of the car before parking it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Triv (181010)

      But remember to GET OUT of the car before parking it.


      Who is driving? Oh my god Bear is driving HOW CAN THAT BE?

  • The American educational system; where you get to sit on the couch smoking weed all day and end up in major news outlets.

    Yes, all these unused cars taking up space. Boy. Let's think. What about all those unused dishwashers? Or for that matter homes? Maybe we should be thinking of foldable homes, since they sit empty for a good part of the day. And wait! It coincides with offices _not_ being empty at roughly the same time. If we built them side by side, WE COULD JUST MOVE A WALL BACK AND FORTH!!! OMFG!!! Who
    • by aussie_a (778472) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @06:11AM (#21305415) Journal
      You're post while hyperbolic, isn't too far off the mark. You talk about dishwashers and the idea of sharing them with other people, but what about laundromats? Isn't that basically your idea except with clothing instead of dishes? Some ideas that don't work when it comes to sharing: * Houses - most people like to be in a house at roughly the same time (i.e. at night when they're sleeping) so they're going to all need to be "unfolded" (or inhabited for a more realistic option) by everyone at a particular time of day. * Dishwashers - Most people will use these at the same time of day (around 7:00-8:00 pm). Some ideas they do work with: * Laundries - There's no set time that most people will use these. * Toilets - In ancient London (i.e. 1940s) these were communal and shared by a block of flats. Although most people would prefer to pay more and get a clean toilet (males will know why. Is it so hard to piss into the bowl?!?!?!?) A more realistic option with cars would be to take away the foldable part and simply have car pick-up places spread throughout cities with cars able to be driven from one point to any point in America (you simply have to say how long you plan on taking it for and pay for it. There'd be a grace period and you'd also have the ability to phone ahead). Each car would be cleaned before the next person used it so if you left anything behind they'd put it aside for you. There'd also be a complimentary bus to take you to and from your home. If you drove a LOT within a typical day this would be more expensive, but for many it would turn out to be cheaper (there'd be a threshold where one hour you break even, the next its more expensive). I believe there is another idea with some communities that do have communal cars, but from the lack of widespread news on them I'm guessing the idea hasn't caught on. Personally the idea of communal cars doesn't exactly excite me. Considering how clean trains and movie theatres are, I'd rather stick with a car I own.
      • I should preview (Score:2, Insightful)

        by aussie_a (778472)
        This is the formatted version of the above post:

        You're post while hyperbolic, isn't too far off the mark. You talk about dishwashers and the idea of sharing them with other people, but what about laundromats? Isn't that basically your idea except with clothing instead of dishes? Some ideas that don't work when it comes to sharing:
        * Houses - most people like to be in a house at roughly the same time (i.e. at night when they're sleeping) so they're going to all need to be "unfolded" (or inhabited for a more r
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by xaxa (988988)
          There are some car-sharing schemes (like this one [streetcar.co.uk]) in London, every so often someone gives me a flier in the street. I don't know if they're clean (I don't drive!).

          The trains here are generally clean (they're cleaned at least every day, probably more often). The mess is usually just the free newspapers.
        • A more realistic option with cars would be to take away the foldable part and simply have car pick-up places spread throughout cities with cars able to be driven from one point to any point in America (you simply have to say how long you plan on taking it for and pay for it. There'd be a grace period and you'd also have the ability to phone ahead). Each car would be cleaned before the next person used it so if you left anything behind they'd put it aside for you. There'd also be a complimentary bus to take

      • Although most people would prefer to pay more and get a clean toilet (males will know why. Is it so hard to piss into the bowl?!?!?!?)
        Women's bathrooms can be just as bad because women hover over the toilet. Think about it for a sec.

        • by Joebert (946227)
          Ok I thought about it & have come to the conclusion that if we can get more women into science we might actually have flying cars before we die.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Culture20 (968837)
            Known: Women hover over toilets
            Hypothesis: Men could use this special hovering power by riding women over a line of toilets...
            Testable? No, at least not by slashdotters.
  • by Bloke down the pub (861787) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:49AM (#21305351)
    I had an idea for these things like a car but bigger, with maybe 20 or even 40 seats. The plan is that they'd circulate around or maybe go backwards and forwards between two points. You get on, pay some money, and then get off when it's close to where you're going.
    • Except when it doesn't go where you need to go.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        OK. How about you have this kind of shared car but - here's the clever bit - it comes with a driver, supplied as part of the service. You get in, the driver takes you exactly where you want to go, you pay for the time or maybe distance, then the deal's done. No need to worry about parking. The car (with its driver) is free to go off and take someone else where he wants to go.
        • And that driver could even provide current political commentary, so you don't need a wireless link to read your /. while traveling.
          • by fbjon (692006)
            People read slashdot for current political commentary? That explains a lot...
        • by drsquare (530038)
          But then surely from driving to pick people up, it would spend more time and distance on the road than if people just owned their own cars? Nice idea, but I can't see it catching on.
          • But then surely from driving to pick people up, it would spend more time and distance on the road
            Between pickups and dropoffs, the driver could RTFA. I'd recommend it, especially the bit where it mentions parking. You'd, ermm he'd, not have to read very far to find it.
  • Sorta like (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xx01dk (191137) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:54AM (#21305365)
    those rentable carts you see at the mall or the airport. It's an interesting idea but I think this will go the way of the Seguay... It's a neat idea in theory and on paper (and it works with the aforementioned carts) but IMHO people are going to reject such contrivances on a mass scale in our individualistic society. As I said, IMHO mind you, I'm not about to give up the option of picking up my girl/kid with my throaty V-8 coupe at the airport/bar/school/work/etc over some envirocentric/socialist's wet dream of public/personal transport. I can see this in an amusement park ride ala Ebcot center maybe, but as an every-day contrivance? Nah, sorry, pass.

  • by azgard (461476) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @06:03AM (#21305395)
    Great! Another silly solution to a simple problem. You americans are really crazy - instead of making good and cheap public transport system, you are inventing things as carpool lanes and foldable cars. I am from Prague, and we have quite good subway here, which transports one Prague's population per day. It's like with those electronic voting machines (we use traditional ballots, and usually get the results in 6 hours after closing the polls) or healthcare system (we have socialized one with not much problems for patients, but efforts to dismantle it are unfortunately underway).
    • Cars in the US are a status symbol as well as a form of transportation. Cars are treated like jewelry! Get a little scratch and folks go crazy!

      I agree with you. I was able to take public transport when I lived in a large metro area and I discovered that driving causes me a lot of stress - I HATE IT! One of the things I love about Europe the most is when I visit; I don't have to drive!

    • by Chapter80 (926879)

      ...which transports one Prague's population per day
      I'm not familiar with this unit of measure. Can you please state this in number of Libraries of Congress?

      Seriously, silly article, your post was right on.

    • by MickLinux (579158)
      Yes, and you also have the Marsrutinis taxis -- microbuses that double the bus lines but come every 2-5 minutes, and charge double what the buses do (more convenience, higher cost, but tons cheaper than a normal taxi). To me, if you're going to do any kind of public transportation effectively, you also need Marsrutinis taxis. For those not in the know, in America the typical price of such a ticket would be $1 bus, $2 Mars. taxi, and normal charges for a normal taxi.

       
    • by Dare nMc (468959)

      you are inventing things as carpool lanes and foldable cars. I am from Prague, and we have quite good subway here

      Maybe a solution that works in a country half the physical size of California (and 1/3 the population.) isn't ideal for a country made up of 52 other states as well.

      The US has some very dense citys, seperated by some distance of more sparse populated land. So everyone doesn't have the general need to end up in the same locations, and their is a-lott of employment that involves many stops in the

    • by Phleg (523632)

      So about that public healthcare system, tell me: what country do you import all your drugs from? And what country pioneers the techniques your doctors use on day-to-day basis?

  • and Slashdot reinvents articles.

    =(
  • The key to this system is that one can travel only from one renting point to another, all of which will be in the city centre. It's all about travelling from A to B within the same city. But people will still need altenative transportation to get from home into and out of the city, so they'll still be taking their cars to work every day, which of course will still be taking up parking space somewhere. Well, presumably they could drive the folding car home and take it back the next day, but that would defeat
  • All the following popular people are hailing the idea and adding their full support to this project.

    Parvez Musharaff

    Abu Nidal

    Muktada al-Sadr

    Mahmood Ahmadinajad

    Osama Bin Laden

    In a joint statement they said, it will make their operations more efficient and because their limited access to capital this project will be a boon to them and they will be able to expand their operations more places to serve their customers better. The signatories form a loosely connected organization (ticker symbol ALQD) and

  • You know you're doing well as a Slashdot editor when your article's tags are:

    zonkcantread, zonkisanidiot, zonksucks

    So much love!
  • The concept is so close to perfection, it deserves the needed refinements: 1. Hydrogen; 2. Nuclear power to generate the hydrogen.


    Then give it the perfect name: The Hindenberg TMI Iron Maiden.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @09:55AM (#21306095) Homepage Journal
    My cold dead hands.

    No thanks, car ownership is part of the independence of the American way.
    • by argent (18001)
      My cold dead hands.

      That's what EMS does all too often. :(
      • by nurb432 (527695)
        Ok, you go ride your bus, ill keep my cars, and wave as i drive past the bus stop.
        • by argent (18001)
          Ok, you go ride your bus, ill keep my cars, and wave as i drive past the bus stop.

          I'd rather you kept both hands on the controls, particularly when you're not looking where you're driving.

  • speaking as a seven year winter-biker in toronto canada --

    foldable cars are nice and all -- but why!?!?
    you've got manufacture and maintain all the equipment.

    it always amazes me how much money is wasted on big monster solutions
    when cheaper and better alternatives have long existed -- why not offer bicycles??
    seriously -- they're cheaper, less problems, it always gets you there, and enjoyable! :-)

    bicycles are the solution to the nation's energy and over-weight problems.
    break down less, and are especially for l
    • by westlake (615356)
      speaking as a seven year winter-biker in toronto canada --

      when seven years becomes eight years - and eight years becomes ten years - and ten years becomes fifteen years, will you still be a winter biker in Toronto?


      • | when seven years becomes eight years - and eight years becomes ten years,
        | and ten years becomes fifteen years, will you still be a winter biker in Toronto?

        but this really is kind of a pointless question,
        because nobody knows the future -- i don't think
        you could tell me where you will be in fifteen years either.

        and as 7 becomes 8 becomes ten years -- will you still be able to
        afford gas at $7, $8, $10 a gallon?? maybe you were in an accident
        in twelve years -- we don't know the future. maybe due to a chan

      • Every time I see an adult on a bicycle
        I no longer despair for the future
        of the human race. (H.G. Wells)

  • The US military has had something like this for a while. It's a Jeep-sized thing used by special ops types. Windshield and roll bar can be folded down for stacking, so the things can be stacked two-high in a C-130. With loading ramps, you can drive one onto the top of another one.

    But that's a rather specialized application.

  • You don't want a stack where, you want a queue. If you have a stack where a car is returned to the top and the next customer also gets a car from the top, the cars experience very uneven wear, since the cars at the bottom are never taken (assuming the system has sufficient capacity). You want a system where a returned car is put at the bottom of the pile and the next customer gets a car form the top (or the other way around).
  • Unfortunately, given current trends, I think that by 2020 (the cars are from the project, Smart City 2020), most Americans will be too obese to fit in these things. I have to agree with other posters: if we put this energy into accessible public transportation, we will get a much better return on our efforts.

    -Adam
  • How do these 'brilliant ideas' keep grabbing headlines? Each of these cars would need to give a full inspection on a daily basis because you wouldn't have a clue what the drivers have done when driving (if they hit something, if something unexpectedly fails etc). Last thing a city wants is to be flooded with lawsuits due to faulty cars. Then there's the stacking, most people aren't great at parking, how are they supposed to be expected to not damage the cars when 'stacking' them? If one time in 50 you rever

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