Stackable cars: the future of transport?

It won’t be too far in the future when travelers can step outside an airport, subway, or train station, swipe their credit card, unfold a miniature car, and peel off at 55 m.p.h. Once they arrive at their hotel, they can simply return the car to the nearest lot and be done with it.

City Car, the brainchild of MIT’s Media Labs, is patterned after the very successful Vélib bike program in Paris. Sure, this type of “borrow when you need” system is great for cheap modes of transport like a bike, but can it work at the automobile level?

Investors think it will if the automobiles are a bit more like bikes than cars. And that’s why City Cars are only 5 feet long, powered by electricity, and can be folded up and shoved together like a bunch of shopping carts. In fact, the MIT website actually compares them to airport luggage carts; “users simply take the first fully charged vehicle at the front of the stack,” and off they go.

Look for them getting underfoot in 2011.