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Green Revolution: CityCar

6 minutes

(Describer) In an animation, different colored icons include a car, a house, a model for hydrogen, and an arrow that looks like lightning. In another one, a woman connects cables. As she laughs and smiles, title: Green Revolution, with Lisa Van Pay PhD (Scientist).

(Describer) Other icons: car plus shopping cart times lightning bolt equals question mark.

(Describer) Title: CityCar.

(Lisa Van Pay) I love driving. I love going wherever I want, whenever. Living in a city means I'm one of thousands of drivers all looking for the same things-- speed, convenience, and most important, a place to park! Add in pollution and other problems, and one can see the need to find better ways to get from here to there. I'm at the MIT Media Lab where designers, artists, scientists, and engineers mix work and play, answering the question, "What do you do with millions of people who all have someplace to go?"

(Describer) In a workshop, Lisa shakes hands with Will Larkin, MIT Graduate Student.

(Describer) Title: identify problems, dream up solutions. Larkin:

Vehicles are obviously a big part of cities. How can we make cars better citizens to the city? What we started with was CityCars,

(Describer) A small, rounded four-wheel car.

a radical redefinition of what transportation is. It can move directionally like normal cars, and all the wheels can turn sideways. So at any time, the vehicle could parallel park

(Describer) He moves a tire on an axel.

directly into a space. To escape a tight corner, it can spin on a dime.

(Van Pay) U-turns would be easy. They are easy. O-turns are now possible.

(Describer) Shaped like a stone, one turns around.

You just do whatever you need to. What's unique is, taking what's usually in the hood and divide them up into the four wheels. We have steering, the drive motor, and suspension all built in a unit.

(Describer) Title: how can this help the city?

(Van Pay) With electric motors in the wheels, there's no need for a front engine. That lets you do pretty interesting things.

(Describer) ...like turn the cockpit vertical.

This is our half-scale prototype. We've introduced a linkage, allowing the vehicle to fold up, so it takes half the footprint.

(Describer) He pulls up the back of the cockpit.

Nearly instantly, the car is half as long? Yes. Cool.

(Van Pay) The cars are fully electric, more mobile, and they fold and stack, like shopping carts.

(Larkin) When it's folded up, it takes little space and gives space back, which can be used for green areas.

(Describer) Title: design. Build. Test. Repeat. Different models are shown.

We don't dream this up from nothing. It's a fun process to get to where we are now. Sometimes we use tools that are crude, for example, just using plywood or cardboard to figure out how the vehicle folds up. I grew up playing with Legos. I just worked really hard in math and science classes. I also explored other design classes too, so arts, and et cetera. It works well for our project, as we have people from many different backgrounds that can influence the vehicle itself. Okay.

(Describer) Title: change what we know, make it better. They sit on the frame of a full-sized prototype.

Will, I don't see a steering wheel. What's happening? Good point. We don't use traditional steering wheels.

(Describer) He uses a joystick.

We control everything through a computer. This allows for more design freedom. There's design freedom in controlling the vehicle, and the interior can be designed differently. We can walk directly out of it due to that freedom of space.

(Van Pay) The idea is stacks of CityCars everywhere. How would it work?

(Larkin) You don't buy one car. You become part of a community with access to the vehicles whenever. Swipe your ID card, take the first one off the stack. When finished, return it to that stack, or return it to another stack elsewhere. It's a shared concept. When you get in a different vehicle, you want to feel like it's yours. Swipe your card, or "log on," and the vehicle knows you: It knows your favorite music and driving settings. There are different technologies to use. The vehicle could change color instantly. You could even have animated flames. It's about using the technology wisely so it's your vehicle every time. It's like a homepage, where you log in, and your settings are downloaded to the car, and it knows everything. Yes. It'll become my new best friend. Yes.

(Van Pay) When I was 16 and wanted to meet friends, it was Mom's minivan or the Dadillac. Imagine, in a few years, you can get the call from your friends, find a stack of CityCars and roll in a custom ride with your look, your music, getting you there in style. Also, you're making the city a better place. With support from the National Science Foundation, Will and his mentor, Bill Mitchell, work hard to improve our surrounding environment. CityCar is part of the Smart Cities Group, which aims to revolutionize how we create and operate vehicles, buildings, entire cities. The best part is, it's never-ending. You think you have better ideas? Discover how to make it happen. 'Cause we all have places to go.

(Describer) Icons: car plus shopping cart times lightning bolt equals CityCar.

(Describer) Titles: Produced by Lisa Van Pay, Maria Zacharias.

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Lisa Van Pay of the National Science Foundation meets with Will Lark, an MIT graduate student working on the CityCar project. The two discuss the technologies that make this vehicle unique and explore the relationship between art, science, and design. The CityCar team hopes that their ideas will someday be part of the solution to problems common to many cities: pollution, traffic, and lack of green space.

Media Details

Runtime: 6 minutes

Green Revolution
Episode 1
7 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Green Revolution
Episode 2
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Green Revolution
Episode 3
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Green Revolution
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Green Revolution
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