At the opening of its new Media Lab, MIT showed
off green urban transportation work. The different vehicles are known as the Smart Cities project. One such vehicle is the CityCar, a compact
vehicle that can carry two passengers. Four of the electric vehicles can fit in a parking
space that would normally accommodate only one traditional automobile. The version you
see here is a half size scale model. William Lark Jr.
Research Assistant, MIT “Imagine different stacks located at different
nodes throughout the city, shopping centers, airports, subway stations. You could easily
rent one of these vehicles and then drop it off at another convenient location.” To allow the CityCar to take even less space,
MIT researchers designed the car to fold in half, pulling itself out of a low profile
and giving it a smaller overall footprint while parked. The urban-centric design is
also echoed in the technology designed around the wheels. “We have what we call wheel robots, where
you have each wheel with a drive motor and suspension and steering built into one unit.
That allows you to not only free up the design of the vehicle but also turn each wheel 120
degrees so the vehicle has a lot of freedom and moves around almost like we do as people.
You can move forward as a traditional vehicle, you translate sideways, spin on a dime and
just have unique movements which are very important in a very tight, congested city.” While the CityCar might be a few years off,
MIT is already set to release another product within the next year. The GreenWheel is a
completely self-contained electric motor capable of around 30 miles per hour that snaps onto
the bike you already own. “Your traditional electric asset bicycle you
put a motor on the back, you have to have a battery somewhere on the frame and you have
to wire all that to a controller on your handlebars. Not that easy. What we have is a central motor,
surrounded by lithium ion cells and a control system all built in a disc unit that snaps
onto the back with the wheel on it.” MIT researchers said the GreenWheel seen here
is an earlier prototype, with the production candidate packing twice as much power in about
the same space. They expect it to go on sale within the year for around 1000 US Dollars. Reporting from MIT Media Lab, I’m Justin Meisinger,
IDG News Service.