A group of engineers in Germany have developed a small electric smart car that they believe will solve the problems of congested roads and packed parking lots.
DFKI Robotics Innovation Center has been working on the vehicle, called the EO Smart Connecting Car 2, for the past three years, giving it the ability to shrink and drive sideways so it can fit in tight parking spaces, according to CNN. Timo Birnschein, project manager for the car, said it can drive like your average vehicle but can also drive sideways since each wheel is powered by its own motor.
Birnschein added that it only takes four seconds for the EO 2 to transition from normal driving to driving sideways.
The EO 2's wheels can rotate 90 degrees, which gives it the ability to spin in a perfect circle, Citifmonline reported.
The car, which is currently a prototype, folds itself so it can shrink, reducing its size from 8.2 ft to 4.9 ft. Its panels slide up and slightly over each other, similar to the movement of a crab or an armadillo. All four wheels stay on the ground throughout the process.
DFKI is also working on a project called "Platoon," which will allow the EO 2 cars to connect to each other and drive completely on their own, Citifmonline reported. The company wants the car to be able to park itself as well.
The engineering team behind the self-driving EO 2 see the car as a transportation resource available at docking stations for anyone in the community to use, CNN reported.
"[It] is very comparable feature-wise to the first prototype," Birnschein said. "The second version is much more reliable and almost road-legal. It's not really, but it's almost there and we are trying to bring this car to the road - but it's a big hassle to be honest because we have so many new technologies in the car that the technical advisory guys are skeptical."
Birnschein added that top automakers will make more self-driving cars over the next 10 years. "Mercedes S class will have autonomous functions within three or four years. Some of other manufacturers like GM announced they will have semi-autonomous cars by 2020. And many other car manufacturers are already working on this type of technology."
DFKI has yet to reveal when, or if, it will make the EO 2 available to drivers around the world.