'Shrinkable car' makes parking a breeze at high-tech fair

Mar 06, 2012
A car that retracts to fit into a smaller parking space is seen at the world's biggest high-tech fair, the CeBIT in Hanover, central Germany.

Scientists at the world's biggest IT fair unveiled on Tuesday what they hope is the car of the future that can shrink to fit tight parking spaces and pick you up at the touch of a button.

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 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 .

"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.

And with space at a premium, there is currently no room for storage.

"We're working on that," promised Birnschein.

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

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1 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2012
"It creates additional energy from the turning of its wheels."

Is an interesting turn of phrase, meaning of course regenerative braking :-)

The docking approach is a sensible idea that many have considered for decades, practical approach has immense logistical issues to address, one of the keys is to use readily available materials (eg small car wheels etc) and offer these as units in cities and immediate area, not under any person's ownership, lease perhaps re license and credit card, With merit so we wont see drunks womitting over the seats etc

ie. I would like to go to a 'dock bay', find a car, plug in my access card and with a friend go for a drive around town for various appointments. Look up where the next car-train is going, such as near home, dock with them and autonomously let the car-train act as a local bus, I'd disembark close enough to home. The car-train returns to town, discombobulates itself so individuals can use cars as needed until next peak period transit...