MIT’s folding car could revolutionize city driving, but it’ll take some getting used to

MIT Folding City Car HirikoIf you live and drive in any modern city, especially one which isn’t well served by multi-storey car parks or clearly marked road-side parking bays, you’ll no doubt be an expert at the parallel parking maneuver. It’s a tricky skill, and one which many drivers still haven’t mastered, but it’s the most effective way of squeezing a car into a tight space.

If you’re one of those who still needs several attempts to reverse into a parking spot, then help could be at hand thanks to a team at MIT Media Lab, who’ve been hard at work coming up with a new city car that could do away with the need to perform the maneuver at all.

The car is the MIT CityCar, also known as the Hiriko, and while it has been a concept for several years, a production model was unveiled in Brussels this week, all ready for its debut in Spain next year.

The tiny car is completely different to anything else on the road, even if it does share a similar look to vehicles like the Smart ForTwo and the General Motors EN-V. Instead of using a single electric engine, the Hiriko uses four, and each is incorporated into a wheel along with the steering and suspension.

This allows an amazing degree of control, including what MIT describes as an “O-turn”, or spinning on its axis, plus the ability to move sideways like a crab – thus never needing to parallel park again.

It doesn’t end there either, as when you’ve parked the car folds in on itself to become even smaller, and as you enter and exit through the front windscreen/door, cars can be parked side-by-side as close together as possible. MIT say three or four Hiriko’s can fit in a standard-size parking bay.

Now, as clever as this may be, it’s an entirely new way of driving a car and although the learning curve may not be as steep as traditional methods, spinning around on the spot and moving sideways will still need quite a lot of practice to get right.

As a two-seater, it’s no more or less practical than a ForTwo, although the electric motors, with their 60-mile range, are designed for very short journeys around a city and nothing more. There’s also the added benefit of a selectable left-or-right hand drive steering column to minimize production costs too.

As innovative as the car is, the plan for its test launch is perhaps even more so. In 2013, twenty Hirikos will be made available in Vitoria Gasteiz, just outside Bilbao in Spain, where they will be shared by a group of people who’ll have access for a few hours at a time. Boston and Malmo will also get a Hiriko trial and other cities, including San Francisco, Berlin and Hong Kong have expressed interest in running a similar scheme.

You can see the launch video and an early concept video below.

Product Review

Volvo’s redesigned 2019 S60 sedan is the best kind of remix

The 2019 Volvo S60 borrows almost everything from other recent Volvo models, but that’s not a problem. From its infotainment system to an available plug-in hybrid powertrain, the S60 takes the best bits from a lineup of great cars.
Cars

'4WD' or 'AWD'? Which setup is right for you?

Although four-wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) are related, they are actually quite different in how they operate. Here, we talk about the fundamental differences between the two systems, and what it means for you as a driver.
Cars

Hold on to your butts: These are the fastest cars in the world

Think your car is unbelievably fast? Think again. From wind-cheating bodywork to powerful engines, these cars were designed for the singular pursuit of speed (and it shows).
Cars

‘Bloodhound’ rocket car needs a speedy cash injection to survive

The rocket-powered Bloodhound car has driven into difficulties, with the company behind the project needing a multi-million-dollar cash injection to save its dream of attempting a 1,000 mph land speed record.
Cars

Carbuying can be exhausting: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.
Cars

Are European-style self-dimming and glare-free headlights coming to the U.S.?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposes to allow adaptive LED headlights on vehicles sold in the U.S. Adaptive LEDs automatically lower headlight intensity when they detect pedestrians or oncoming vehicles.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Porsche upgrades German factory to build Taycan electric cars

A Porsche factory that currently builds the automaker's popular sports cars will soon begin churning out Taycan electric cars. In preparation, Porsche is upgrading the factory to be high tech and low emissions.
Cars

Vanderhall Carmel adds creature comforts to the basic three-wheeler formula

The Vanderhall Carmel is the fifth three-wheeler from Utah-based Vanderhall Motor Works. It takes the basic design of the Vanderhall Venice and adds a handful of creature comforts, as well as a more powerful engine.
Cars

Race car or daily driver? Choose either with the 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS

Porsche has expanded the Panamera lineup with a midrange, GTS-badged model. Part race car and part daily driver, it's the variant we've been waiting for since the current-generation Panamera arrived in 2017.
Emerging Tech

Shrimp eyes inspire new camera focused on helping self-driving cars see better

By mimicking the vision of mantis shrimp, researchers were able to make significant improvements on today’s commercial cameras. They hope their technology can help mitigate accidents by letting self-driving vehicles see more clearly.
Cars

Double your charging speed with Nomad’s Tesla Model 3 wireless charger

Nomad's wireless charger for the Tesla Model 3 fits the EV's charging dock exactly. If you plug both of the Nomad's into the Model 3's two front USB ports you can charge two smartphones quickly or one phone twice as fast.
Cars

Watch this 1,000-horsepower Jeep Trackhawk scorch supercars in the quarter mile

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is pretty quick out of the box, but Texas tuner Hennessey Performance Engineering never settles for stock. Its HPE1200 Trackhawk boasts over 1,000 horsepower.
Cars

Room to roam: The supersized X7 is unlike any BMW you’ve ever seen

The first-ever BMW X7 is the 7 Series of the SUV world in terms of size, price, and image. Its supersized body has enough room for seven adult passengers and enough tech to impress even the most cutting-edge buyers.