Finally, an Electric Car that Parks Itself and Folds Up

Quirkier than a Smart car

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Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Armadillo-T, a foldable electric vehicle, folds up its rear at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, south of Seoul September 2, 2013.

Wouldn’t it be cool if your car folded up into something, oh, briefcase-sized, tapping futuristic tech like the trans-dimensional space-time wizardry in Doctor Who’s TARDIS? No, the “Armadillo” car won’t do that, but it does fold nearly in half after politely parking itself.

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Tap an app on your smartphone and the “Armadillo-T” — an experimental electric car designed by automotive mavens in South Korea — navigates a target parking space, then lifts its carapace-like rear, wheels included, the shell sliding over the vehicle’s front until the car appears to have folded almost in half. That lets it occupy roughly half the space a sedan-sized vehicle would, lending it a smaller footprint — smaller even than a Smart car, which itself offers unexpected parking perks.

Squint and it almost looks like a cartoon bull kicking up its hooves before charging. But it’s that movable, rounded gray shell that gives the two-seater its peculiar name.

Reuters notes the Armadillo can make it 62 miles off a 10-minute charge, though you probably wouldn’t want to drive it on a speedy highway — it tops out at 37 m.p.h.

“They can be parked in every corner of the street and buildings, be it apartments, shopping malls or supermarkets,” said Suh In-soo, a professor with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology who helmed development of the Armadillo. To make it work, Suh had to design it without side or rear mirrors, replacing them with small digital cameras that transmit images to a dashboard screen.

Alas, the Armadillo isn’t road-legal, and it may never go into production, says Reuters, but if the researchers figure out how to make it safe enough to pass crash requirements? Anything’s possible.

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