E-car adjusts its shape according to situation

March 02, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
E-car adjusts its shape according to situation
Researchers of the DFKI Robotics Innovation Centre in Bremen have developed a smart electric car with flexible morphology that can change its shape according to the current needs. The prototype has been built in the scope of a project "New mobility in rural spaces" which among other topics explores innovative technologies associated to electromobility.

The EO smart connecting car disposes of a flexible undercarriage which enables multiple vehicles to be connected to a single "road train". When the undercarriage is folded together, the driver cabin is automatically moved into a vertical position. Thus, the vehicle reduces its overall length by about half a meter to a total of about 2 meters. Conversely, its height grows from 1.60 meters to about 2 meters. This change in shape facilitates the formation of so called road trains: Shorter vehicles result in a shorter, more agile train. "If multiple vehicles have to travel over the same distance, they can effectively connect to each other and increase energy efficiency", explained Fank Kirchner, head of the DFKI Robotics Innovation Center. "Data and energy are carried over among the vehicles and only the front vehicle steers the train."

The EO smart connecting car disposes of a distributed power train - each wheel is driven separately. What's more, its wheels can be deflected by 90 degrees which enables the car to move sideways. Thus, the EO vehicle can move very flexibly in tight environments such as car parks. The vehicle can evade obstacles easily — it can turn around on the spot, move diagonally or lift individual wheels.

The goal of the project is a vehicle that can drive completely autonomously. This includes automatic parking and docking to a charging station. Through sensors in the car and on its surface the EO vehicle can receive traffic-related information and communicate with other traffic participants. "The design approach is similar to the approach for a robot", Kircher said. "The car is equipped with all necessary sensors and computing resources to exactly comprehend its surroundings and navigate accordingly". Route calculations take into account the current traffic situation, remaining battery capacity, and energy consumption optimization."

The Project "New mobility in rural spaces" is funded in part by the German federal government. The R&D consortium is headed

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