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This tiny electric car can drive sideways and shrink to fit into parking spaces

Anyone who’s read a bit of science fiction knows that living in futuristic urban sprawl can be a bit of a drag, but a team of German engineers has a concept car designed to make driving and living with an automobile easier in the densely-populated urban areas increasing numbers of people are expected to call home.

Created by DFKI Robotics Innovation Center, the EO Smart Connecting Car 2 adapts to the urban environment like a rat squeezing through cracks in a boarded-up building. It can shrink to take up less space, and even drive sideways into parking spaces.

The pod-like design features seating for two and four electric motors, one mounted to each wheel hub. This design allowed engineers to give the car some serious turning ability. Each wheel can rotate 90 degrees.

By turning the wheels perpendicular to the curb, the car can crab sideways into a space, much easier alternative to parallel parking.

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And if the space isn’t quite big enough, the EO Smart Connecting Car 2 can suck in its gut by lifting the body over the rear axle. This allows it to contract from a full length of around 7.5 feet to around 5.2 feet.

Yet while the EO car excels at parking, performance is not its forte. Top speed is just 40 mph, while range is estimated at between 30 and 44 miles. The onboard battery pack takes four hours to fully recharge.

Granted, city driving usually involves shorter trips in dense traffic, and there are more places to put charging stations in built-up areas. This definitely isn’t a car for the country, though.

One more nifty feature is the ability for multiple cars to dock and form a “platoon,” maneuvering in unison without any input from individual drivers. The EO Smart Connecting Car’s developers believe this could be particularly useful in a car-sharing service, where users hitch a ride on the autonomous convoy.

The EO Smart Connecting Car 2 isn’t destined for production, but it demonstrates possible ways to make cars easier to use in cities. Whether any carmakers employ any of its features in their own vehicles remains to be seen.