MIT’s City Car, Becomes a Reality as Hiriko.

About 5 years ago, MIT began developing an inner city automobile that was designed for highly congested areas. The commuter car had a distinct advantage in dense urban areas where parking is always at a premium. “City Car” could fold up to reduce it’s physical footprint.

Recently in Brussels, the “City Car”, now renamed “Hiriko Fold” was revealed as an actual production prototype slated to go into production in 2013. The first urban areas slated to receive the car is Vitoria Gasteiz, a community on the edge of Bilbao Spain. Cities slated to follow the debut of for a trial run with Hiriko are Boston, Berlin, Hong Kong, Francisco, and Malmo. It will be interesting to see how well this concept does in the United States, a country that loves it’s over sized gas guzzling SUV’s and Trucks. A country where people don’t mind driving from an hour outside the city on their daily commute. One thing about most of the United States, land is available, and urban sprawl is common. These factors lend themselves to the obsession with Suburbans, F-350’s, Hummers, and Explorers in most of America.

The Hiriko, when unfolded is slightly smaller than a Smart Car, yet the styling is very futuristic, and sleek. Factors that might help it do better than Smart has done since it’s introduction to the American market a few years back.

What makes Hiriko unique is it’s ability to fold into itself allowing it to park in a space about one third the size of a normal car. According to MIT, three to four Hiriko vehicles can fit into the space used by a normal full sized car. This will be huge for American cities like New York, San Francisco, or Boston. In addition, the Hiriko has the ability to turn on its axis with virtually no turning ratio which aids in inner city driving/parking conditions. Powered by four independent electric motors (one for each wheel) Hiriko can even move sideways in a crab-like manner, virtually eliminating the need to ever parallel park the in a traditional fashion.

Hiriko is estimated to cost around $12,500 when it arrives next year. That price point makes it affordable, and it’s size makes it desirable for many. I just hope MIT can come up with a marketing plan that will sell this to an American audience. In my opinion Hiriko will be a huge success in Europe, Japan, India, and other extremely dense urban areas. Here in the good old USA, it might be a tough sell since we have to share the streets with so many bloated over sized vehicles. Either way I can’t wait to see this in person, and actually take it for a test drive.

I Want Clear Streets Please

Last night the Kansas City metro area got what was supposed to be its first major snow storm of the season. At my house I think I might have gotten 3 inches total, so it wasn’t that big a deal. What I want to talk about today, is the lack of city services for clearing the snow, and the way people freak out when they have to drive on it. Or maybe I should say how people are just ill prepared and not thinking about how to drive on snow-covered streets, which as far as I concerned shouldn’t be covered at all.

I live at the intersection of 3 counties, 2 states, and 3 cities. My house is in Wyandotte county, less than half a mile from the state line, and less than half a mile from Johnson County Kansas. This morning when I first went out I thought OK the side streets are covered, no big deal they always are but by the time I get to the main roads things will be all cleared off. Well they weren’t. The two and a half mile to work on city streets was a giant frozen slush fest. It looked as though no prep work had been done, and none of the streets had been cleared. By 7:30, enough traffic had rolled over the streets, that the snow pack had turned into the equivalent of an icy slush, with areas by each traffic light frozen into black ice. both Wyandotte and Jackson county roads really looked like they were untouched by our city workers.

Johnson county Kansas on the other hand was perfectly clear. I got a call before I left for work form another driver who said that as soon as she crossed County Line road into Johnson County, the streets were completely clear. They had been scraped free of snow and ice. They were safe and easy to navigate, thanks to an efficient set of city, county, and state employees that worked through the night to make sure that the morning commute would be safe.

So I want to know what gives. I live in the county with the highest property taxes in the state. The county where the unified government is not operating in a deficit. Are you telling me that Kansas City Kansas, can’t clear the major streets in their city? 7th street, or Rainbow as it is named South of I-35 was pure soup. This is the main road that runs from downtown KCK to Shawnee Mission Parkway. South West Boulevard, another main thoroughfare was in the same state. As I drove in I kept thinking by the time I get across 39th street to Main, or Southwest Trafficway, those streets will have been scraped, but hell no. They were awful, and this isn’t even a major storm we had. Southwest Trafficway was so bad by Pen Valley college people were stuck spinning tires in both the center and right lanes causing a back up that for lack of a better term snowballed into   more cars getting stuck. Linwood, and Gilham were no better. The streets just sucked in the Kansas City area. I know I should be used to it by now. KC streets always suck when it comes to getting them cleared and safe to drive, but it just seems to me that it gets worse every year. This leads to the second half of this post.

OK just because you bought a 4 wheel drive truck or SUV doesn’t mean you A: know how to drive in the snow, and B: are any good at it. I saw so many idiots driving like the snow was no big deal. Spinning 4 tires instead of 2, weaving in and out of slow-moving traffic, with no regard for the safety of others on the road. Kansas City drivers in general are some of the worst I have ever experienced in the United States, but if you add a pinch of snow and some I kick ass cause I have 4 wheel drive to the mix it is a recipe for disaster. My favorite drive this morning was the guy in his all wheel drive Audi tailgating everyone on Southwest Trafficway weaving through traffic like he was the center of the universe and we his roadblocks to whatever was so important. Just before the 31th street intersection, he swung from the center lane to the left lane behind some guy in a huge Expedition. Giant SUV stopped short for the timid driver in front of him, and wham Audi kissed the Expeditions back bumper with its grill and hood. I’m sorry the guy deserved it. My second favorite experience was the guy in the delivery truck for “India Palace” backing down the street into oncoming traffic because he didn’t have snow tires and couldn’t make it up the slight hill from 39th street. He was forcing other drivers to get out of his way, as he backed down the road. He had a 4 wheel drive truck, but like said earlier, if you don’t know how to use it then you are no better than the rest of the people on the road.

So what is the point of all of this? I’m not sure. I’m probably just letting off some steam, after what should have been an easier drive to work this morning.