The Smart car might face some stiff competition in the tiny and adorable vehicle market.
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) unveiled a prototype car that can fold itself almost in half with just the press of a button on the driver's smartphone.
In-Soo Suh, an associate professor of the Graduate School for Green Transportation at KAIST, named the car the Armadillo-T. After the car is parked, a stabilizing wheel pops out from underneath, followed by the back of the car curling forwards and upwards, much like its namesake roly-poly desert mammal. The Armadillo-T shrinks down to a little under five-and-a-half feet.
Suh and his colleagues have found additional ways to bring cutting edge technology to the Armadillo-T. In place of side view mirrors are cameras that both take up less space and reduce blind spots by providing a more comprehensive side view. The car can also be partly controlled from the smartphone, allowing drivers to step out and better see how they're navigating tricky parking spaces.
"This car is ideal for urban travels, including car-sharing and transit transfer," said Suh in a statement. "I expect that people living in cities will eventually shift their preferences from bulky, petro-engine cars to smaller and lighter electric cars."
Nick Gianaris, the executive director of the Composite Vehicle Research Center at Michigan State University, noted that the Armadillo-T has four individual motors in each of the wheels, rather than one centralized motor. "The speed of the car is limited, but the control of each motor provides you safety," he told ABC News.
People who complained about the Smart car's lack of speed probably won't find much solace in the Armadillo-T. The prototype car's top speed currently stands at around 37 miles per hour, half as fast as the Smart car's 75 miles per hour.
Overall, Gianaris thinks that though the car is futuristic looking, it's also realistic.
"It's going to be a lot of touching and feeling around," he said in regards to the Armadillo-T's future. "But it's a good thing."
According to KAIST's statement, three shrunken Armadillo-T's can fit in a single five-meter parking spot. However, Suh and his colleagues haven't provided information on how a car could get out if it's cramped bumper-to-bumper between other cars.
"I guess it would be kind of similar to New York City and high-density parking with ramps," said Gianaris. "You have to find a way to park more cars into the same amount of space."