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MIT Reinvents Transportation With Foldable, Stackable Car

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the so-tired-of-owning-a-car dept.

Transportation 158

alphadogg writes "Parking in a downtown area is one of the least enjoyable elements of driving. MIT researchers may have found a solution: a car you can fold up before parking. The boxy conveyance folds in half, and the plan is for the vehicle to fit eight in one conventional parking spot. 'Franco Vairani, a Ph.D. candidate at MIT and one of the original designers in the City Car project, said his team is taking a vending-machine approach to city travel. In his vision of the future, people would find a stack of electrical-powered City Cars on nearly every block in the city. When a user would want to drive somewhere in town, he would swipe a smart card or cell phone across an electronic reader and take a car out of the stack. When he gets to a business meeting across town, a shopping mall or their doctor's office, the driver simply leaves the car in a stack at his destination. The drivers don't own the cars. They simply rent them. It's fully self-service. The next person takes a car out of the stack, and off he goes.'"

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158 comments

less dupes please (2, Informative)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305285)

this was only on here a few days ago, nice going ZONK

Re:less dupes please (5, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305329)

This is a foldable dupe so it doesn't take as much room on the front page. You can fit six more dupes about this story in the same space that a regular article would take.

Re:less dupes please (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21307575)

Boy, wish someone could post a car analogy...

Re:less dupes please (1)

Ctrl-Z (28806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306475)

The only thing worse than a dupe is the two dozen replies pointing out that it is a dupe.

Cool stuff but what about safety? (0)

WebDN (1187055) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305287)

The "car" looks like four-wheel motorbikes. It seems convenient but I have to have about its security concerns if accident happens. Maybe we should allocate special lanes for these "cars".

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (2, Informative)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305383)

I couldn't find any pics, but by your description Europe is filled with such cars. Sometimes the European "cars" even have bike handles used to steer them with. I don't know how safe they are, but they're certainly prevalent in Europe where space is at a premium (I'm sure they have a nice price tag that doesn't hurt either).

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (5, Informative)

!coward (168942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305561)

Link to pictures here [news.com] . (from the original post here on slashdot)

I don't know which cars you're talking about.. Being an European myself, the only car I can think of that closely resembles the MIT's prototype is the Smart [smart.com] . And even then, only the basic model, the Smart Roadster, for example, has more of a buggy look to it.

Anyway, while I've certainly seen plenty of them around, there even seems to be a tuning cult around them (Smart with a Lamborghini Diablo engine beating a Ferrari [youtube.com] ), I've yet to see a single one with a bike handle instead of a driving wheel.

But the City Car concept reminds me of the city bike system many European cities have adopted. The idea is basically the same: you have some sort of a sign-up procedure, community card or something like that. With plenty of bike "parks" spread across the city, all you need to do is pick one up from a park near the start point, cycle to the bike park closest to your destination and drop it off.. And it works! The number of people using them in Lyon, for example, really blew my mind. It also raised some issues when, at about 3am, I saw a couple of teenagers driving them while obviously intoxicated.. But I suppose they're bound to get into a lot less trouble than if they were driving a car.

As far as safety is concerned, they were meant to be driven within a city, ie, I seriously doubt they were built for speed, what with those pesky speed limits being the lowest and all. Overall, I've seen some vehicles (a couple of models specially designed for the handicapped come to mind) that seemed way more unsafe/weak than the MIT's prototype.

It might be a really good idea, as long as people don't treat them like crap just because it's not theirs..

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (3, Informative)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305573)

Both the Smart Roadster and the Smart ForFour have been discontinued. They only make the ForTwo now.

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (1)

!coward (168942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305625)

Thanks for the update.. Shame about the Roadster, though, that one looked it might actually be fun to drive (in addition to looking great).

But it makes sense: they've basically gone back to building only the original concept, instead of trying to make them be something they were not. The original model, now the ForTwo (literally, for 2 people), can actually be comfortable (and this is coming from someone who has trouble feeling comfortable on "normal" cars -- my knees keep bumping on the dashboard), is comparatively affordable, small enough to make it easy to navigate on any urban-like location, particularly good with heavy traffic, and a breeze to park/find parking space. For anyone living in or around cities, looking for a useful personal transportation utility, instead of some sort of status symbol, it's simply ideal.

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305667)

I liked the Roadster too. My wife used to have a Mercedes A-Class (She drives a Mini One D now) and the dealership of the Smart was evidently nearby. So, one day when we dropped her car off for maintenace we went in to look at the Roadsters. They were all "on sale" because they stopped making them. Apparently the popularity had never been higher. Odd, isn't it? ;-) I considered it a while, but I didn't want to replace my car ;-)

As for the ForTwo, it really is a great car. A friend of mine living in Antwerp has (had? They have kids now) one. Took me for a ride... Comfort is great. The only drawback, I found, was that the enige was kinda loud. Probably just me.

Oddly enough "small" cars are often great for tall people. You wouldn't expect that... I have another friend who is nearly 2m tall, and he swore on the Renault Twingo. In my car, and Audi TT, he could barely get behind the steering wheel, and bumped his knees against the dashboard even as passenger. Sure, the TT is small, but he had exactly the same problem with his dads Renault Laguna, which you would expect to be a bit larger.

The roadster was rubbish... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306921)

The roadster was rubbish...good riddance to it. Horrible plastic interior, zero performance, and very very expensive.

The ForFour was also very overpriced and offered nothing special. A Mini was way better and cost less.

The original Smart (now called "ForTwo") is the only model which made any sense and had a reasonable price tag.

Re:The roadster was rubbish... (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307573)

Yes, the roadster was horribly expensive. I agree. As I said in another post, they marked the existing ones down significantly and then they sold like hotcakes.

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (2, Informative)

owlstead (636356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306013)

Bikes? Cars as well:

http://new.greenwheels.nl/ [greenwheels.nl]

Quite popular in Amsterdam, as I've been told. I've seen quite a few around.

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (2, Informative)

PyroMosh (287149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306779)

They do have this in the U.S. too. Philadelphia at least.

Philly Car Share [phillycarshare.org]

Interesting program, never tried it myself, but I did live a block away from one of the car parks at one point, so I was curious enough to look into it.

"Bike handle" cars (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306847)

We Euro-types haven't had bike handle cars for about 25 years now. Try Taiwan or India....

>"I don't know how safe they are"

Well they only did about 20 miles an hour so...safer than a moped.

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21305753)

Don't worry ... when the obvious problems with the design crop up after production, they'll just sue the architect and the builder.

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21306479)

but I have to have about its security concerns if accident happens.

Really? A car with a collapsible frame that "may even be capable of topping 100 miles per hour." Ok Ralph Nader...

Kidding aside, while I'm generally in favor of this sort of outside the box thinking, this concept as is is ridiculous to anyone who understands automotive engineering.

1) the shared car concept is already in place, both Taxis and Car sharing [zipcar.com] . Not to mention public transportation, Public bikes, etc.

2) Saftey! His design is effectively reversing one of the biggest innvovation in car safety from the last 100 years, the safety cage surrounded by collapsable structures. Modern cars are designed to have the rest of the car collapse while the passenger car remains whole. In this, the passenger compartment is by definition collapsable, a serious danger. You aren't even as safe as a motorcyclist, who at least isn't trapped inside anything.

3) Comfort. His design puts the motor inside the wheels. Great for efficiency, awful on real city streets that aren't smooth as glass. Heavy wheels have more momentum as they crash into potholes and other road irregularities. Real automotive engineers strive to take weight away from suspension, not bolt the heaviest components to it.

At least the Segway had novel thinking behind it. MIT should be ashamed of this guy...

Re:Cool stuff but what about safety? (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307593)

The general person in the US will not be able to accept such a drastic transportation change. Of course that is until you add a Blaster Master cannon.

Dupe, dupe, dupe! (3, Informative)

appleguru (1030562) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305293)

Re:Dupe, dupe, dupe! (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305683)

Further evidence that "Slashdot editors" are neither editors, nor do they even read Slashdot. The only reason that I believe that they haven't been replaced with very small shell scripts is that I find it hard to believe that a script could do such a bad job.

Re:Dupe, dupe, dupe! (1)

Frozen Void (831218) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306333)

Whats if they just keep the names and outsourced the editors jobs to China?

Re:Dupe, dupe, dupe! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21307617)

Whats if they just keep the names and outsourced the editors jobs to China?
This is what I got when I dialed the phone:

"Hello. ThankYouVeddyMuchForCalling. VeAtSlashdotAppreciateYourContinuedPatronage. MyNameIs -- Zonk. HowCanIHelpYouToday?"

Who cleans them? (3, Interesting)

fantomas (94850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305297)

I don't want to be in a rush for an early morning business meeting, get the next car out of the vending machine and find the previous renters were a bunch of college students on a party mission the night before...

Nice idea and reducing number of vehicles in cities is definitely a great goal, though I think the team would have to pay close attention to lessons learned by other projects that have tried to set up publicly shared but autonomous individual transportation mechanisms - that's where I think it would be won or lost. Urban bicycle schemes like the Amsterdam white bikes or neighbourhood car pool sharing comes to mind.

Re:Who cleans them? (3, Interesting)

packeteer (566398) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305445)

Urban bicycle schemes like the Amsterdam white bikes or neighborhood car pool sharing comes to mind.

I recently spent a bit of time in Paris and Lyon in France. They both has city wide bicycle rentals that work out really well. I think a bike is better suited to this kind of thing. The main problem i see is that Americans don't want to ride a bike. In France i saw many business men in suits riding the bicycles around with their brief case on the back. Without the social stigma of riding a bike in Europe they can do it. In America people believe if your riding a bike its because you got a DUI or your just broke.

Problem with America? Too image conscious? (2, Interesting)

spineboy (22918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305465)

Too many people are too concerned about what other people think, but then again, Europe is generally much more densely populated than the US and A, and so bike riding is a more feasable option.

Europe more densily populated than USA? (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305649)

The USA has some wide open spaces but I believe it is also the home of the skyscraper, there are some urban areas there as well.... I'd guess a few folks live in urban environments there as well as in Europe. Manhattan and Santa Monica seemed pretty similar to European cities in terms of layout last time I was there: I think as another poster has suggested, the reasons for bikes not being attractive in the USA is as much to do with cultural and social reasons as geographical ones.

Re:Europe more densily populated than USA? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305849)

Actually, it has a lot to do with where people live vs. where they work. In many super-urban centers the public transport is good (subway in NY, metro in DC, etc.) and they are heavily used. Unfortunately, public transport can only get you so far out into the sub-urban areas, which is where many americans prefer to live. Often, the choice is a 15 minute car ride to public transport, a 10 minute wait for the train, 40 minutes on the train, and then a 10 minute walk to work. For the same commute, it may only take 45-50 minutes by car, and you park 2-3 minutes walk from the office. That's an extra 50 minutes a day commuting. If you figure that most urban professionals in the US are putting in 9-10 hour days, plus an hour for lunch, that 50 minutes is pretty precious self-time (or family time).

Now there are two issues here that are somewhat self-imposed - the long workday, and desire to live remote from where you work. In many cases, it's not quite that simple. Many people actually work where they can find a job, and the hours help you to keep that job. Often, that job is not sufficient to pay for the cost of (safe, comfortable) housing near where they work. The only place they can afford is on the outskirts where property values are lower.

Re:Europe more densily populated than USA? (1)

AngelofDeath-02 (550129) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306041)

It's 30 miles one way to work, so riding a bike is not an option for me.
Really, neither is moving to the same city I work in either - as the property value is really high and I cannot afford to rent from there, despite my above average wages.

So I drive, since taking the bus would be at minimum 2 hours, and only available one way, due to schedules.

Density has a lot to do with making things like subways and trains feasible. Here, the best we have are buses on a 30 minute schedule - your screwed if one of the buses shows up too early or too late at a connection.

Re:Problem with America? Too image conscious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21306909)

I live in a college town, and both work and go to school, reasonably enough, on campus. I live a mile from campus, and part of my walk is down a busy highway without a sidewalk. I do own a car and could drive to campus but there's no point, it's only a mile. I can actually get there just as fast on foot, once you count time spent looking for a parking space. I get evil looks from people in cars when I'm walking *in crosswalks* (excuse me for being in your roadway, Geez). More than once pedestrians have been hit, and badly injured, even in parts of campus where the posted speed limit is 20 MPH and there are signs everywhere telling people to yield to pedestrians... When I tell people I work with, and my fellow students, that I walk, they're usually surprised; from their point of view, the only people who should walk to class are students who live on campus. In America, if you don't drive, they don't want to see you; if you don't drive a car that cost at least $35,000, you'd better get out of the way of the Lexus, Mercedes, and Hummer drivers. I swear, it's almost as if there are two different sets of traffic laws. It's definitely a money/status thing, and it's done a lot of harm to our society.

Re:social stigma (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306353)

Americans are simply concerned that the bicycle frame will collapse under them. If you want widespread adoption in the US, you'll have to do three things:
- Reinforce the frames
- Install cupholders (follow the lead of the automakers)
- Install a sausage dispenser

Re:social stigma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21306449)

Install a sausage dispenser

American, not gay-european.

Re:Who cleans them? (0)

ClubStew (113954) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307189)

Here in Seattle that's definitely not true. I mean, I hate when bikes ride the roads when they don't need to because it impeeds cars but when they do they break driving laws they have to follow, but it's otherwise fairly well accepted. In fact, slowly this place is going more "green" such that some people who do ride bikes snub those who don't.

Re:Who cleans them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21307325)

That or nobody likes a sweaty business man.

Re:Who cleans them? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307585)

The main problem i see is that Americans don't want to ride a bike. In America people believe if your riding a bike its because you got a DUI or your just broke.

There aren't many American cities or metropolitan districts that approach the density that would be familiar to an Asian or a European.

The climate isn't always benign. Locally, cyclists were warned to stay off the roads to avoid the punishing heat and humidity this summer.

Those who attempted it had the look and smell of roadkill.

Re:Who cleans them? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305543)

Yeah, the idea seems a bit naive. Anyone that's shared a flat knows that even if you share the cars between a group of people that know each other it seems likely that only a minority will take part in the shared cleaning job. Most won't and so the cars will quickly become too foul to drive. The oddest thing is that if you want socialized transport, buses and trains have already solved the problem - just make the vehicle carry more people and run on fixed route and return to a central depot to be cleaned.

Come to think of it the OLPC seems to be based on similarly naive idea that you can trust third world governments to distribute laptops fairly to people they have neglected since independence.

Re:Who cleans them? (1)

Palpitations (1092597) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305735)

Since I posted this on the original story, and it seems fitting to repost here, I'm going to. If the editors can dupe stories, I might as well dupe comments (oh, I can feel my karma going up in flames for this already).

I lived in Portland for quite a few years, and saw the benefits of Flexcar [wikipedia.org] . It's such a pedestrian/mass transit friendly city (as long as you're in Portland proper, and not out in Tigard or Lake NoNegro or any of the other wretched suburbs), and at least in the areas I lived in many people chose not to own a car because they simply didn't need one. That, or they prefered to walk, bike, or take the bus/light rail. Flexcar [flexcar.com] gave a few people I knew the option to pick up a car and use it on the rare occassion they needed one.

I never made use of one - I had a car of my own there for quite some time, and after I got rid of it I had my girlfriend's car to drive around on the rare occassion I needed to. That said, for quite some time I lived near one of the designated parking areas for them (in front of the substation on Belmont around 30th for anyone who knows the area). I walked past one at least once or twice a week on the way to the store, rode with someone in one, and from what I saw they always seemed to be in very nice condition. No graffiti, no damage at all to speak of.

Lots of people may be worthless douchebags who ruin good things for everyone else - but usually those people aren't the ones who are willing to put down a credit card to be able to do it.

Re:Who cleans them? (1)

rubberglove (1066394) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306677)

Urban bicycle schemes like the Amsterdam white bikes or neighbourhood car pool sharing comes to mind.
Car sharing works great. Here in Montreal I've been a member of communauto [communauto.com] for about a year now.
How it works: you give a $500 deposit, a yearly membership fee (the cheapest is $35 a year), then pay per hour and per km (with gas, car washes, etc included).
If I need a car, I call or reserve one from their website. The cars are parked in stations all over the city (there are 15 Toyota echos and yaris's a block from my house). It's perfect for my family. I don't want to own a car, I just want to borrow one now and then.
The hourly/km rates are pretty reasonable (but expensive enough that I only use it when I need it) and I don't have to think about parking, repairs, gas or insurance ($0 deductible!). Yes, every once in a while if I wait until the last minute, all the cars will be booked, but them's the breaks.

And yes, the cars well maintained and clean. Yay communauto!

/. invents stackable stories (5, Funny)

kooky45 (785515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305305)

/. invents identical stackable stories. Take one, and the next identical one is available in line. The idea was copied from MIT as reported on /. some days ago. [slashdot.org]

Re:/. invents stackable stories (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305977)

Been done with bikes : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V [wikipedia.org] élo'v

It works quite well with bikes. Foldable cars don't sound that great in comparison.

Re:/. invents stackable stories (1)

Wellspring (111524) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306693)

Been done by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle...

In the Mote in God's Eye, the moties have a technology like this.

A car that folds up *before* parking eh? (4, Funny)

mrjb (547783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305327)

Seems ingenious. But remember to GET OUT of the car before parking it.

Re:A car that folds up *before* parking eh? (2, Funny)

Triv (181010) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306283)

But remember to GET OUT of the car before parking it.


Who is driving? Oh my god Bear is driving HOW CAN THAT BE?

Dupes for sale, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21305341)

In soviet russia, foldable cars dupe YOU, slashdot!

The American educational system; (0)

slashdot.org (321932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305349)

The American educational system; where you get to sit on the couch smoking weed all day and end up in major news outlets.

Yes, all these unused cars taking up space. Boy. Let's think. What about all those unused dishwashers? Or for that matter homes? Maybe we should be thinking of foldable homes, since they sit empty for a good part of the day. And wait! It coincides with offices _not_ being empty at roughly the same time. If we built them side by side, WE COULD JUST MOVE A WALL BACK AND FORTH!!! OMFG!!! Who's got the cheetos?!

Sorry, but seriously, non-stories get silly replies, that's how it works ;-)

Re:The American educational system; (3, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305415)

You're post while hyperbolic, isn't too far off the mark. You talk about dishwashers and the idea of sharing them with other people, but what about laundromats? Isn't that basically your idea except with clothing instead of dishes? Some ideas that don't work when it comes to sharing: * Houses - most people like to be in a house at roughly the same time (i.e. at night when they're sleeping) so they're going to all need to be "unfolded" (or inhabited for a more realistic option) by everyone at a particular time of day. * Dishwashers - Most people will use these at the same time of day (around 7:00-8:00 pm). Some ideas they do work with: * Laundries - There's no set time that most people will use these. * Toilets - In ancient London (i.e. 1940s) these were communal and shared by a block of flats. Although most people would prefer to pay more and get a clean toilet (males will know why. Is it so hard to piss into the bowl?!?!?!?) A more realistic option with cars would be to take away the foldable part and simply have car pick-up places spread throughout cities with cars able to be driven from one point to any point in America (you simply have to say how long you plan on taking it for and pay for it. There'd be a grace period and you'd also have the ability to phone ahead). Each car would be cleaned before the next person used it so if you left anything behind they'd put it aside for you. There'd also be a complimentary bus to take you to and from your home. If you drove a LOT within a typical day this would be more expensive, but for many it would turn out to be cheaper (there'd be a threshold where one hour you break even, the next its more expensive). I believe there is another idea with some communities that do have communal cars, but from the lack of widespread news on them I'm guessing the idea hasn't caught on. Personally the idea of communal cars doesn't exactly excite me. Considering how clean trains and movie theatres are, I'd rather stick with a car I own.

I should preview (1, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305449)

This is the formatted version of the above post:

You're post while hyperbolic, isn't too far off the mark. You talk about dishwashers and the idea of sharing them with other people, but what about laundromats? Isn't that basically your idea except with clothing instead of dishes? Some ideas that don't work when it comes to sharing:
* Houses - most people like to be in a house at roughly the same time (i.e. at night when they're sleeping) so they're going to all need to be "unfolded" (or inhabited for a more realistic option) by everyone at a particular time of day.
* Dishwashers - Most people will use these at the same time of day (around 7:00-8:00 pm).

Some ideas they do work with:
* Laundries - There's no set time that most people will use these.
* Toilets - In ancient London (i.e. 1940s) these were communal and shared by a block of flats. Although most people would prefer to pay more and get a clean toilet (males will know why. Is it so hard to piss into the bowl?!?!?!?)

A more realistic option with cars would be to take away the foldable part and simply have car pick-up places spread throughout cities with cars able to be driven from one point to any point in America (you simply have to say how long you plan on taking it for and pay for it. There'd be a grace period and you'd also have the ability to phone ahead). Each car would be cleaned before the next person used it so if you left anything behind they'd put it aside for you. There'd also be a complimentary bus to take you to and from your home. If you drove a LOT within a typical day this would be more expensive, but for many it would turn out to be cheaper (there'd be a threshold where one hour you break even, the next its more expensive).

I believe there is another idea with some communities that do have communal cars, but from the lack of widespread news on them I'm guessing the idea hasn't caught on.

Personally the idea of communal cars doesn't exactly excite me. Considering how clean trains and movie theatres are, I'd rather stick with a car I own.

Re:I should preview (2, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305605)

There are some car-sharing schemes (like this one [streetcar.co.uk] ) in London, every so often someone gives me a flier in the street. I don't know if they're clean (I don't drive!).

The trains here are generally clean (they're cleaned at least every day, probably more often). The mess is usually just the free newspapers.

Re:The American educational system; (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305537)

Although most people would prefer to pay more and get a clean toilet (males will know why. Is it so hard to piss into the bowl?!?!?!?)
Women's bathrooms can be just as bad because women hover over the toilet. Think about it for a sec.

Re:The American educational system; (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305697)

Ok I thought about it & have come to the conclusion that if we can get more women into science we might actually have flying cars before we die.

Re:The American educational system; (2, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306849)

Known: Women hover over toilets
Hypothesis: Men could use this special hovering power by riding women over a line of toilets...
Testable? No, at least not by slashdotters.

It'll never work (4, Funny)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305351)

I had an idea for these things like a car but bigger, with maybe 20 or even 40 seats. The plan is that they'd circulate around or maybe go backwards and forwards between two points. You get on, pay some money, and then get off when it's close to where you're going.

Re:It'll never work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21305385)

That idea is already quite likely patented.

Re:It'll never work (1)

yoprst (944706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305633)

Tried it, doesn't work either. I'm setting my hopes for commuting underground, although I've yet to figure out how to do that.

Re:It'll never work (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305759)

Except when it doesn't go where you need to go.

Re:It'll never work (2, Insightful)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305841)

OK. How about you have this kind of shared car but - here's the clever bit - it comes with a driver, supplied as part of the service. You get in, the driver takes you exactly where you want to go, you pay for the time or maybe distance, then the deal's done. No need to worry about parking. The car (with its driver) is free to go off and take someone else where he wants to go.

Re:It'll never work (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306091)

And that driver could even provide current political commentary, so you don't need a wireless link to read your /. while traveling.

Re:It'll never work (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307281)

But then surely from driving to pick people up, it would spend more time and distance on the road than if people just owned their own cars? Nice idea, but I can't see it catching on.

Sorta like (3, Insightful)

xx01dk (191137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305365)

those rentable carts you see at the mall or the airport. It's an interesting idea but I think this will go the way of the Seguay... It's a neat idea in theory and on paper (and it works with the aforementioned carts) but IMHO people are going to reject such contrivances on a mass scale in our individualistic society. As I said, IMHO mind you, I'm not about to give up the option of picking up my girl/kid with my throaty V-8 coupe at the airport/bar/school/work/etc over some envirocentric/socialist's wet dream of public/personal transport. I can see this in an amusement park ride ala Ebcot center maybe, but as an every-day contrivance? Nah, sorry, pass.

silly solutions to simple problems (5, Insightful)

azgard (461476) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305395)

Great! Another silly solution to a simple problem. You americans are really crazy - instead of making good and cheap public transport system, you are inventing things as carpool lanes and foldable cars. I am from Prague, and we have quite good subway here, which transports one Prague's population per day. It's like with those electronic voting machines (we use traditional ballots, and usually get the results in 6 hours after closing the polls) or healthcare system (we have socialized one with not much problems for patients, but efforts to dismantle it are unfortunately underway).

It won't sell very well here in the US (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305433)

Cars in the US are a status symbol as well as a form of transportation. Cars are treated like jewelry! Get a little scratch and folks go crazy!

I agree with you. I was able to take public transport when I lived in a large metro area and I discovered that driving causes me a lot of stress - I HATE IT! One of the things I love about Europe the most is when I visit; I don't have to drive!

Re:It won't sell very well here in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21305495)

Great idea... we'll get started on the massive relocation programs to increase our population density making mass scale public transportation economically efficient immediately!!!(!!!). And let us not forget to roll back our standard of living while we're at it--everybody knows I prefer bums and sirens and muggings and small little flats anyway.

We don't need to invent solutions that fit the facts of circumstance in America, we can just pretend to be Europeans!

Re:It won't sell very well here in the US (2, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305585)

In England a lot of people from the south-east (around London) travel by train to London every day (over a million people travel to London from outside the urban area, the urban area is 40 miles across). If you live in a town the fast trains (that only stop at big towns) are fine. If you live in a small village, the train to London is likely to stop at several villages between the two nearest towns, then miss out all the small villages after that (there will be a different service that stops at these stations). The only time this is annoying is if you want to go from one small village to another some distance away, since you'll probably have to change trains.

Re:silly solutions to simple problems (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305563)

...which transports one Prague's population per day
I'm not familiar with this unit of measure. Can you please state this in number of Libraries of Congress?

Seriously, silly article, your post was right on.

Re:silly solutions to simple problems (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305963)

Yes, and you also have the Marsrutinis taxis -- microbuses that double the bus lines but come every 2-5 minutes, and charge double what the buses do (more convenience, higher cost, but tons cheaper than a normal taxi). To me, if you're going to do any kind of public transportation effectively, you also need Marsrutinis taxis. For those not in the know, in America the typical price of such a ticket would be $1 bus, $2 Mars. taxi, and normal charges for a normal taxi.

 

Re:silly solutions to simple problems (1)

drozofil (1112491) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307069)

I think you should have checked the pictures at http://www.news.com/2300-13833_3-6216805-4.html?tag=ne.gall.pg [news.com] that someone already posted in this thread. You can see that the car stacks are put next to subway entries. I'm sure that Prague's subway is fine (never been there through), but you'll agree that some places in Prague ior its suburbs cannot be reached using the subway. Self-service car rental packed like bikes seems like a fine complement to that. You might also consider the case where you'd like to transport goods, where having a huge bag and strong shoulders might not be enough, and so you would rather go by car. IANAA (not an american) but I think they have subways too there ... at least in some cities.

Re:silly solutions to simple problems (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307469)

you are inventing things as carpool lanes and foldable cars. I am from Prague, and we have quite good subway here

Maybe a solution that works in a country half the physical size of California (and 1/3 the population.) isn't ideal for a country made up of 52 other states as well.

The US has some very dense citys, seperated by some distance of more sparse populated land. So everyone doesn't have the general need to end up in the same locations, and their is a-lott of employment that involves many stops in the same day.

I know my job ends up with a load of equipment, that I have used in mass transit before, then again I have lost equipment damaged by Bell boys and such. Having to lug around 75# of equipment worth $1000's onto, and off of trains, and taxis is not worth the risk for most.

Re:52 other states (2, Funny)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307551)

with all our military action and spending, you would think we could have 2-3 more by now.

Weather? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21305479)

Doesn't it snow in Massachusetts? Rain heavy? High winds off the Atlantic?

I'm all for thinking about better transport, but we've had lightweight impracticals like the Peel for 40 years now. How about some research into things that can work?

[Please don't bring up any as-good-as or better-than-a-bicycle talk -- I've been a courier in Toronto. I know intimately what can be done in heavy weather! It's just that can-be-done is not the same as practical. Practical means transport that allows people to show up for work, and dressed for work. On time, and not soaked through the skin with slush/sweat and wearing sports clothes. A base requirement for a real alternative is equivalent comfort, all-year-reliability, & safety to walking, driving, & public-transit. A lightweight folding car is "sunshine-thinking" if you know what I mean.]

Back to Vairani: "It's not going to be as efficient as mass transit, but it combines the advantages of personal mobility with ... the ability to take people exactly where they're interested in going. ... It's about how people move in the city." -- That is: when 'exactly where' is busy enough include a car-stacking area.

In other words, it doesn't offer anything that a well-run tube & tram system doesn't already. Nothing at all.

I don't mean to be a shithead - I'm just really disappointed to see this sort of 'research' getting showcased. We're way past the open-thinking Archigram stage. I'm not seeing anything here but a warm-over of inquiries from that era.

No solution (1)

Chief Wongoller (1081431) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305595)

The key to this system is that one can travel only from one renting point to another, all of which will be in the city centre. It's all about travelling from A to B within the same city. But people will still need altenative transportation to get from home into and out of the city, so they'll still be taking their cars to work every day, which of course will still be taking up parking space somewhere. Well, presumably they could drive the folding car home and take it back the next day, but that would defeat the point as renting would become prohibitavly expensive and the vehicle wolud not be available for use by another. So, it seems it won't do anything to relieve parking congestion, and it's not an alternative to mass car ownership either, but just another form of local public transportation, a bit like a taxi, but one you have to drive yourself, but not really like a taxi as you won't get dropped off at the door. Why not simply allow people to own these things, then they could leave their 'big' car at home.

Re:No solution (1)

Omnedon (701049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307273)

Being able to take them home could work, if there were enough of them available, particularly in a business situation where it was staffed 24 hours a day, but with regular shift changes. Get a (folding) car and drive it home, drive in to work the next day when your shift starts, then the shift coming off gets a car and drives it home.

Sounds like a TAXI, but YOU HAVE TO DRIVE IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21305659)

instead of reading the newspaper or chatting on the phone or something else that is important to you.

So what kinds of jobs are the taxi drivers going to get?

Taxis are usually nice cars in American big cities.

Tell me again why I'd want to rent a shitbox instead of riding in the Shiek's Crown Vic or driving one of my own BMWs.

I think my oldest BMW, made in 1994, is safer in a crash (ie. I am more likely to live) than any small car, even one that was built yesterday. I'd like to see what happens to that sub 1-ton car when it hits something at the 100mph+ speeds they are expecting.

Re:Sounds like a TAXI, but YOU HAVE TO DRIVE IT (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305739)


I think my oldest BMW, made in 1994, is safer in a crash (ie. I am more likely to live) than any small car

I think you'd be surprised. The BBC TV show Top Gear set up a test where they crashed a late-80s Volvo 740 into a new car (I forget what it was, but one of the far eastern econoboxes). The new car was badly damaged, probably to the extent that all the occupants would be severely injured. The Volvo? In bits. Little random sharp bits of metal scattered across the tarmac.

Big old Volvo 'wagon vs Renault Modus compact (1)

the grace of R'hllor (530051) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306147)

Actually it was Fifth Gear. I think you're referring to this [youtube.com] .

That pitted a 15-year-old big Volvo stationwagon vs a Renault Modus compact. The compact demolished the Volvo.

I also like this Smart crash test [youtube.com] .

Another Sci-Fi book ripoff :p (1)

Mathness (145187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305745)

Someone at MIT must have read Mel Gildens "Hawaiian UFO Aliens" (or was it one of his other books?), one of the story elements is a foldable car from a vending machine. Another seemingly crazy idea from sci-fi making it into the real world.

Ridiculous (1)

MichailS (923773) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305747)

While I salute progress, it is tiring to see all the stupid ideas that emerge from time to time where the creator clearly disregarded customer demand, human nature et cetera.

Historically, most every time the car business present an alternative like electric cars they tend to stuff the new technology in the most ridiculous outfit they could conjure. Three-wheeled contraptions made from edible plastic or some such.

Monorails, maglevs, shuttles that you wrap around your body - one more preposterous than the other, all dropping like bat guano from the ivory towers by old men who - when pressed on the subject - admit that they don't really expect anyone to actually WANT one of these things.

Putting on my tin foil hat for a moment, these kind of displays seems to me only serve one purpose, and that is to show us consumers that we should be grateful for how cars look today, because - behold the laughable only alternative we could invent!

How about presenting a REGULAR DAMN CAR that runs on electricity instead? It is a thing so simple I can build one in the basement.

Many endorsements for the idea (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305793)

All the following popular people are hailing the idea and adding their full support to this project.

Parvez Musharaff

Abu Nidal

Muktada al-Sadr

Mahmood Ahmadinajad

Osama Bin Laden

In a joint statement they said, it will make their operations more efficient and because their limited access to capital this project will be a boon to them and they will be able to expand their operations more places to serve their customers better. The signatories form a loosely connected organization (ticker symbol ALQD) and this press release contains information based on forward looking projections and should not be considered investment advice. PRNewsWire.

Wow, Zonk is popular (2, Funny)

FoolsGold (1139759) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305819)

You know you're doing well as a Slashdot editor when your article's tags are:

zonkcantread, zonkisanidiot, zonksucks

So much love!

Close to perfect (1)

Zigurd (3528) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305957)

The concept is so close to perfection, it deserves the needed refinements: 1. Hydrogen; 2. Nuclear power to generate the hydrogen.


Then give it the perfect name: The Hindenberg TMI Iron Maiden.

No pictures as usual (1)

iregisteredjustforth (1155123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21305991)

As usual with 99% of the science/tech articles slashdot links to theres no bloody pictures. When I read something like this, I want to see a damn picture of what they're talking about!

How hard is it to get a small picture of the item they're talking about and put it in the article somewhere. Lazy, lazy, journalists.

 

Pry my car from.. (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306095)

My cold dead hands.

No thanks, car ownership is part of the independence of the American way.

Re:Pry my car from.. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306133)

My cold dead hands.

That's what EMS does all too often. :(

Re:Pry my car from.. (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306221)

Ok, you go ride your bus, ill keep my cars, and wave as i drive past the bus stop.

Re:Pry my car from.. (1)

danceswithtrees (968154) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306499)

Comments like this make me feel like gas in America is still too cheap.

Re:Pry my car from.. (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306591)

Fine, ill toss a handfull of M80's as i drive past instead of waving. Damned socialist.

America is about independence on all levels. 'Public transit' is about communal life and should be avoided at all costs.

Re:Pry my car from.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21307095)

wow.
And I'll laugh as I zip around your stuck-in-traffic car on my bike.

Re:Pry my car from.. (1)

ThJ (641955) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306593)

99% of the times an American says "the American way", it's the same damned way things are done in the rest of the world too.

Cleanliness issues aside... (1)

Andath (1187179) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306349)

Ok, for one moment assume people decide to take good care of the cars even though they don't own them, and that some sort of cleaning and maintence routine is figured out. Now, all of this aside, what is one of the most annoying things about vending machine systems? They run out! How much would you rely on a system that depends on the ratio between incoming and outgoing traffic to get you where you need to go? I can just see the bussiness men and students, late to classes and meetings, rushing up, only to find that someone else has taken the last car.

bicycles (1)

johnrpenner (40054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21306707)


speaking as a seven year winter-biker in toronto canada --

foldable cars are nice and all -- but why!?!?
you've got manufacture and maintain all the equipment.

it always amazes me how much money is wasted on big monster solutions
when cheaper and better alternatives have long existed -- why not offer bicycles??
seriously -- they're cheaper, less problems, it always gets you there, and enjoyable! :-)

bicycles are the solution to the nation's energy and over-weight problems.
break down less, and are especially for localized urban commuting.

for the winter -- covered 'bike tunnels' would take the edge off,
and would still cost less than building a road, or several hundred
foldable cars.

really!!

Worked great for the Moties (1)

zardoz342 (663020) | more than 6 years ago | (#21307337)

I saw many similar vehicles in use on Mote Prime, and the had a heck of a traffic problem. Sig No Sig
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