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Transportation Technology

Korean 'Armadillo' Electric Car Folds Up, Parks, Controlled By Your Smartphone 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the put-it-in-the-glove-compartment-of-your-SUV dept.
cartechboy writes "Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have unveiled a crazy foldable, compact electric vehicle that, well, folds up like an armadillo. What's more, you can engage the armadillo-like folding process as well as actually park the car with a smartphone. Yes, there's an app for that. Not sure if it's the folding part or the idea of people trying to park any car using their cellphones that makes this concerning. The shrinking process takes only around 15 seconds, and reduces the car's 110-inch length to just 65 inches as it essentially curls into a ball."
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Korean 'Armadillo' Electric Car Folds Up, Parks, Controlled By Your Smartphone

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  • also a top speed of 40 mph is not very good.

    • by Entropius (188861) on Friday August 23, 2013 @02:51PM (#44657983)

      As an American who likes to drive on the highway, I agree.

      As an American who is currently stuck in an urban shithole where 40mph is a pipe dream, I might want one of these.

      • by ls671 (1122017)

        As an American, is the "foldable" feature attracting you?

        I ain't sure the space saving from the length that "goes from 2.8m in drive mode to 1.65m in parking mode" will be a big plus for the States and Canada. Perfect for Japan where every inches saved counts although.

        Well, maybe for people living in downtown New York or Toronto but even there, I am not sure that the space saving in parking mode is relevant.

        What do you think?

        • Only if I can jump out, engage the folding, and then remote control it into impossibly small spaces. That would be totally hilarious.
          • Only if I can jump out, engage the folding, and then remote control it into impossibly small spaces. That would be totally hilarious.

            That is the entire point of the thing.

        • Well, maybe for people living in downtown New York or Toronto but even there, I am not sure that the space saving in parking mode is relevant.

          You're paying for a space to park your car, the space isn't going to be cheaper because your car is only 1.65m long, so it's pretty much irrelevant.

          Except as a cute party trick - "Hey guys, watch this!"

          • by CCarrot (1562079)

            Well, maybe for people living in downtown New York or Toronto but even there, I am not sure that the space saving in parking mode is relevant.

            You're paying for a space to park your car, the space isn't going to be cheaper because your car is only 1.65m long, so it's pretty much irrelevant.

            Except as a cute party trick - "Hey guys, watch this!"

            If these type of cars catch on, they might designate areas of the lots for 'armadillos only', just like some do for compact cars and motorcycles. If that were the case for paid parking, I could see the smaller spots being offered at a reduced rate...I don't know, does anyone know if you pay a different rate right now for assigned motorcycle parking vs a regular parking spot?

            • If these type of cars catch on, they might designate areas of the lots for 'armadillos only', just like some do for compact cars and motorcycles. If that were the case for paid parking, I could see the smaller spots being offered at a reduced rate

              Hmmm...so, you're saying I can split my parking area up into five slots for an armadillo, or three for regular cars...and I can charge 40% LESS for the armadillo spaces, or make 40 MORE on the five spaces....

              SO hard to decide....

              • by CCarrot (1562079)

                If these type of cars catch on, they might designate areas of the lots for 'armadillos only', just like some do for compact cars and motorcycles. If that were the case for paid parking, I could see the smaller spots being offered at a reduced rate

                Hmmm...so, you're saying I can split my parking area up into five slots for an armadillo, or three for regular cars...and I can charge 40% LESS for the armadillo spaces, or make 40 MORE on the five spaces....

                SO hard to decide....

                Yeah, parking lot owners may just take the opportunity to jack up the number of stalls without actually reducing the cost per stall...but that would bite them on the ass once they see those stalls sitting empty because even people with an armadillo say 'fuck it, if it's the same price, I'll just grab a full sized stall'

                OTOH, if they offer those stalls at even a 10 to 20% discount...well, in some cities in the world, that small savings on an ongoing basis would do a *lot* towards defraying the purchase cost

          • by mwehle (2491950)

            You're paying for a space to park your car, the space isn't going to be cheaper because your car is only 1.65m long, so it's pretty much irrelevant.

            In San Francisco there are any number of parking spaces, between driveways for instance, which will accommodate a Smart car but not my Prius. The length of the car very much does matter when looking for urban parking.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      I used to work near a retirement community. 55+, nearby golf course and supermarket shopping mall. Most of the residents had electric golf carts instead of cars and they worked just fine. And that's all this is - a glorified electric golf cart.
      • by jonyen (2633919)

        I used to work near a retirement community. 55+, nearby golf course and supermarket shopping mall. Most of the residents had electric golf carts instead of cars and they worked just fine. And that's all this is - a glorified electric golf cart.

        But it's a glorified electric golf cart that folds!

      • by dbIII (701233)
        In slow city traffic that's all you need.
  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday August 23, 2013 @02:50PM (#44657961)

    Imagine owning one of those things for several years. What happens if the damned thing gets stuck? Or a motor burns out that controls the expansion. Or a gear gets stripped...

    And honestly, how small do you need to make a car? The difference between the expanded and contracted versions was not that great. I'd keep it expanded all the time. Why not. Are you ever going to have that little space? Unlikely.

    • I'd keep it expanded all the time. Why not. Are you ever going to have that little space? Unlikely.

      If people started buying these, I would expect businesses that deal with parking problems to reserve some extra-small spaces for these cars -- most likely desirably-located spaces, in order to encourage people to use them. That's why you'd use it.

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        This reminds me of how California encouraged the use of hybrids and electric vehicles - they made it so that conforming vehicles had access to the HOV lanes even with only the driver.

        This was an option worth several thousand dollars to many drivers, which combined with federal and state rebates made the vehicles very attractive to many buyers. Of course, it had the somewhat unattractive affect of allowing ANY hybrid - including relatively huge ones like the Ford Escape that still gets worse mileage than an

        • And of course there are many non-hybrid cars that get better mileage then many hybrids.

          And yet they get no benefit despite being much more environmentally friendly.

          Its all politics, fashion, and fads. Logic or justice has nothing to do with it.

          • by Firethorn (177587)

            And of course there are many non-hybrid cars that get better mileage then many hybrids.

            Which is why I mentioned the Ford Escape Hybrid up against 'any econobox'. There are small IC engined cars that beat Priuses in mpg, but they're not as common, and generally much more limited.

            And yet they get no benefit despite being much more environmentally friendly.

            Yep. If you rate them by gas mileage, a non-hybrid is more environmentally friendly than a hybrid. If you rate them by function, the hybrid will win IF the usage pattern favors hybrids - inner city driving, for example. If you're all highway a turbo-diesel will be better.

            • There were a lot of cars in the 1980s that had much better gas mileage... mostly because they were a great deal lighter. Safety standards have complicated that approach. But perhaps if they put as much effort into making cars light they might actually get a superior effect.

              • by Firethorn (177587)

                That's being done for a number of cars, with increasing amounts of aluminum, carbon fiber, even exotics like magnesium. Trick is that doing so is expensive and drives up the cost of the car.

                And, as you say, it tends to be counter-acted by things like including a huge battery pack for hybrids, and even for non-hybrids you have the ever increasing numbers of air bags and such.

                • It would be interesting to see what would come of a race to produce a lighter car rather then a more reasonable hybrid. That is, accept the gasoline engine and just try to improve mileage. I think they'd produce a better car at a cheaper price.

              • by dpidcoe (2606549)
                It's not just a weight thing On a round trip between San Diego and Palm Springs (mostly freeway with a good dose of mountain switchbacks), my dads Mazda 6 got 42mpg (EPA rating is 38 highway). Modern engine design can do a lot to increase efficiency.
              • by dbIII (701233)
                You again? Is attacking any sort of advance all you do?
                As for your wild claim above - numbers please.
      • by nukenerd (172703)

        If people started buying these, I would expect businesses ... to reserve some extra-small spaces for these cars -- most likely desirably-located spaces, in order to encourage people to use them.

        In the UK there are already quite a few Smart cars, like there were Minis before that, and Bubble cars before that, and it has never happened.

        And what do you mean by a "desirable" parking place? In my work car park I tend to park as far as possible from the turnstile, and ditto from supermarket doors; less likely to get dinged that way, and I can go out to my car at lunch time and get some peace and quiet. Just illustrates that different people have different lifestyles, different preferences, and like

    • by CCarrot (1562079)

      Imagine owning one of those things for several years. What happens if the damned thing gets stuck? Or a motor burns out that controls the expansion. Or a gear gets stripped...

      And honestly, how small do you need to make a car? The difference between the expanded and contracted versions was not that great. I'd keep it expanded all the time. Why not. Are you ever going to have that little space? Unlikely.

      Umm...target market seems to be Korea, where (in Seoul at least) people need all the parking space advantages they can muster. This is a place where it is normal and polite to fold your side view mirrors in every time you park. I'm not sure if this is an automated feature or not, since we took public transit everywhere and just noticed the difference from our 'ordinary'...it was odd at first, but so consistently done that you stopped noticing after a while.

    • Imagine owning one of those things for several years.

      Or imagine renting one by the hour from a company like Zipcar [zipcar.com]. A commuter could leave their "real" car at home, and take a train or bus into the city, and then rent one of these, as-needed, to get around downtown.

      • yeah but why not just have a smart car or similar? The collapsed size doesn't appear much any smaller then the ultra compact cars I've seen previously.

        • by xerxesVII (707232)

          Perhaps as an end user there would be little benefit, but if the Zipcar franchise had a downtown holding pen, I'm sure they'd appreciate the ability to store almost twice as many cars on the same space.

    • by NoKaOi (1415755)

      Imagine owning one of those things for several years. What happens if the damned thing gets stuck? Or a motor burns out that controls the expansion. Or a gear gets stripped...

      Then you have to get it towed. Just like you do now when your car has a mechanical failure that prevents you from driving it.

      And honestly, how small do you need to make a car? The difference between the expanded and contracted versions was not that great. I'd keep it expanded all the time. Why not. Are you ever going to have that little space? Unlikely.

      That would depend on where you live or park. If you live in a rural or suburban area then this probably isn't the car for you. If you live or work in the downtown area of a large city, then this may be great for you. Just because it's not useful for everyone doesn't mean it's not useful for anyone.

    • Imagine owning one of those things for several years. What happens if the damned thing gets stuck? Or a motor burns out that controls the expansion. Or a gear gets stripped...

      And honestly, how small do you need to make a car? The difference between the expanded and contracted versions was not that great. I'd keep it expanded all the time. Why not. Are you ever going to have that little space? Unlikely.

      I expect it to fold up into a briefcase.

      Also Fly. Carrying a family of 4.

    • Imagine owning one of those things for several years. What happens if the damned thing gets stuck? Or a motor burns out that controls the expansion. Or a gear gets stripped...

      That's an odd criticism? - It's really no different to asking what happens if the water pump ceases on an F100, everything has a finite existence and will turn to crap eventually. There's no reason to believe this pile of metal and plastic is any more or less durable than any other pile of metal and plastic.

      Are you ever going to have that little space? Unlikely.

      These things are aimed at high density city dwellers in Europe and Japan where micro-cars are already very popular and space is at a premium, folding may just be enough to make a difference as to wether

  • From the video, I guess that no harm would come to them other than the fact that if the unfolding breaks, they may not be able to get out.
  • LoL (Score:4, Funny)

    by meerling (1487879) on Friday August 23, 2013 @02:56PM (#44658051)
    What if you forgot to take the groceries out of the back before you 'shut it'?
    Will it do that if someone is in the car?
    I bet a lot of people would have fun tipping them over when folded up.
    The smaller size is only when parked, so it won't help you get into a smaller parking space.
    Those tiny casters aren't going to be used for rolling it around anywhere, so why the heck didn't they use something more durable like a post/leg?

    It's funny, but not very practical in my opinion. I wonder how many clowns you can cram into it?
    • Re:LoL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bill Dimm (463823) on Friday August 23, 2013 @03:13PM (#44658237) Homepage

      And, if someone parks really close to you while it is folded you won't have enough space to unfold it.

    • by fishybell (516991)
      Obligitory XKCD^H^H^H^H Perry Bible Fellowship: http://pbfcomics.com/156/ [pbfcomics.com]
    • by Firethorn (177587)

      1. You open it back up, or since it's likely the cargo space that folds, some sensor stops it.
      2. Probably not, but worst case there should be an emergency release. Of course, it's just a prototype.
      3. Probably not - the 13.6kwh battery pack is in the front bottom of the vehicle. It should be stable.
      4. I figure that's what the cell phone control is for - folded it still has it's front wheels and those casters, so it should still be somewhat mobile.
      5. You need actual wheels for 40 mph, but for a 1-5mph

      • by nukenerd (172703)
        Meerling wrote :-

        What if you forgot to take the groceries out of the back before you 'shut it'?

        Firethorn replied :-

        You open it back up, or since it's likely the cargo space that folds, some sensor stops it.

        The problem is still there, even if you remember the groceries. If I bought those groceries on the way to work, I do not want to have to take them all into the office with me when I get there.

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          The problem is still there, even if you remember the groceries. If I bought those groceries on the way to work, I do not want to have to take them all into the office with me when I get there.

          You buy groceries on the way to work? I buy them on the way home - not wanting my cold stuff to warm up, fresh greens to wilt during the heat of the day, etc... Plus, well, I'm not a morning person.

          Frankly speaking, you don't buy a vehicle like this without accepting compromise. If that's you can't buy groceries before work, so be it. It's still better than a motorcycle cargo capability wise.

          For that matter the compromise for morning grocery purchase(or just hauling something for after work) might be to

    • Re:LoL (Score:5, Funny)

      by Type44Q (1233630) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:07PM (#44658757)

      I wonder how many clowns you can cram into it?

      Jam as many clowns as you can into it, fold it up, expand it, jam a few more in, repeat as necessary.

      Bonus: finally a legitimate usage of clowns.

    • With the castors, you can use it as a shopping trolley in a supermarket when it is folded...
  • > curls into a (65-inch) ball

    I can think of another way it will curl into a 65-inch ball.

  • From 'The Mote in God's Eye' (Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle)

    Quote from WikiPedia "... On the ground, Engineers drive at breakneck speed on crowded roads without fear of collision, and upon reaching destination, will dismantle their cars so they won’t take too much parking space.".

    Also, one can find hints regarding driving habits: "Korean drivers don’t rely on (or follow) rules, just what they can see (i.e. anyone may do anything at any time, so a driver must be vigilant)." ( http://koreana [wordpress.com]

    • by freeze128 (544774)

      "Korean drivers donâ(TM)t rely on (or follow) rules, just what they can see..."

      This doesn't bode well for a car that is 40% blind spot....

  • All these "concept cars" assume that you never need to carry anything more than a briefcase, or leave anything inside. I wonder about the lifestyle of these designers.

    I'd hate to see the aftermath of folding this car up if you forgot that you had left a couple of six-packs in the back.
    • by Firethorn (177587)

      I wonder about the lifestyle of these designers.

      College students. Aside from the occasional instant food, they eat out, often from a dining facility of some sort. Even if they buy food, they only have a tiny cube fridge, which is mostly reserved for beer. They have no children to need supplies for, etc... Their rooms come mostly pre-furnished, and delivery services for anything bigger are readily available, assuming they don't just buy it online and have it delivered that way.

    • I'd hate to see the aftermath of folding this car up if you forgot that you had left a couple of six-packs in the back.

      A $5 sensor could solve that problem.

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      I'd hate to see the aftermath of folding this car up if you forgot that you had left a couple of six-packs in the back.

      I'd hate to see the aftermath of a side-impact collision. No protection at all with those little flaps for doors.

  • It looks like all they did was take a smart car and make it bendable. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_(automobile) [wikipedia.org]
  • 1. The cab is not environmentally sealed. The "door" is just a wide bar. Try using this in the rain or cold. It would be little better than a motorcycle.
    2. Difficult to carry things in the trunk and still be able to fold. Everything in the trunk will shift around when the vehicle is folded. Things may get crushed or jam the mechanism. How many vehicles to you know have empty trunks? This makes the trunk space and folding mechanism much less useful.
    3. Missing specification. What is the acceleration? If it ta

    • I disagree, 10 blocks to 60K is very good acceleration indeed, even it's in kph instead of mph!

      Sam

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Most vehicles get to 60kph in one block. Do the math. If it takes 10 blocks to get to 60kph and one has to stop every 5 blocks. the top speed is 30kph and the average speed is 15ph. There would be something wrong when a 60 year old on a bicycle can out accelerate you. The main problem is that traffic lights are times for much higher accelerations which would cause one to miss even more lights. It could drop to every 2 blocks which would mean the average speed would be 6kmh and cause gridlock.

    • by nukenerd (172703)
      jklovanc wrote :-

      1. .. The "door" is just a wide bar. Try using this in the rain or cold. It would be little better than a motorcycle.

      ...

      3. Missing specification. What is the acceleration?

      Didn't you watch the video? Looks like the acceleration is 0-5 in 10 seconds, and it is meant for indoor use.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday August 23, 2013 @03:19PM (#44658309) Journal

    A car that doubles as a trash compactor.

  • It could have just been made shorter. But instead, they added a big empty back section, to lengthen the vehicle for no good reason (let's call it stability), then the entire back useless half folds upward. Hope there was nothing in the trunk buddy.

    Thanks for the big empty cavity. That's not helpful.

    Probably a very nice golf cart storage system though. Trunk-be-gone!

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      "hope there was nothing in the trunk"
      "thanks for the big empty cavity. That's not helpful"

      Contradicting yourself a bit here. If you figure that you DON'T need to fold it when parked 100% of the time, not only is it more stable when expanded, it also has a surprising amount of trunk space available. Most people don't use 100% of their trunk space 100% of the time, going by the time I had a trunk I'd say 50%+ full about 15% of the time, otherwise 10% full. 100% full would be less than 1% of the time.

      There's

      • Like I said, an expandable trunk doesn't require folding. It needn't be a part of the car. It can just be like a basket out the back.

        The whole point about being a part of the car is to be structurally protective. That thing's plastic that I can fold myself. No side-impact anything.

        It's totally useles.

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          Like I said, an expandable trunk doesn't require folding. It needn't be a part of the car. It can just be like a basket out the back.

          A basket off the back wouldn't be stable, and might provide less protection(theft, rain, privacy).

          Oh, and 'not optimal' is far different than 'totally useless'. It doesn't have to be the best solution to still be viable. If nothing else, 'cool looking' is an option. And this is the first post where you mentioned safety, and I only partially agree with the 'no-side impact' because, well, first it's a concept car built by college students when I'm willing to bet that 99% of concept cars, even ones by profe

  • Convenient. (Score:5, Funny)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Friday August 23, 2013 @03:27PM (#44658367)

    It also neatly folds up when rear-ended. Very economical. It doubles as a coffin.

  • Jane, stop this crazy thing!
  • I will name him Armadilus Prime - proof that Michael Bay makes documentaries. ... wait, it's actually pretty lame, makes a transformation in pretty much a single actuation... he's more of a GoBot.
  • It looks just like a hot wheels car.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You might not think folding up is of importance but obviously you have not been to Korea. It is common practice to double park and leave you car in neutral so the other driver can push it out of the way.

  • That's a golf cart.

    No side windows. Top speed below 65mph.

    Nothing to see, here.

  • How come so few developers thinks to stick solar panels on their electric cars?

    Put a solar panel that raises up so it charges in "park" mode and I'm sold.

  • Before watching the video, I thought "Oh, the back end folds into the passenger compartment, so it takes up less space. I wonder how they'll prevent people from getting crushed?"

    After watching the video I thought "Wait... The whole back part of the car is hollow, and just wraps around the passenger compartment!?"

    What the hell is the point? They've made a car twice as long, that is completely unusable space. Just cut that part off, and put the big black wheels in the spot that the small casters are. There, n

  • ...what happens when someone parks right behind you, and you are unable to 'unroll' your car?
  • The idea of a foldable car has been around for some time, and even implemented in the past in some Renault prototypes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_Zoom [wikipedia.org]

    Self parking cars have also been around for some time. Controlling the operation with a phone is kinda new, but not unexpected lets say.

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