Wow. What goes around, comes around, I think the saying goes. Minus the folding aspect, but plus a good bit of range and quick fillup, I offer you the 1950 Isetta, made by Iso SpA, Italy.
As decribed, fuel economy in the 50-70 mpg range, the same front access and bubble look, and really short. You saw them parked in super tight spaces, typically turned so the occupants could get out that front door.
Usually this type of car cannot be imported into the US, due to safety regulations. Actually, I'm surprised that this new one must meet the now stringent Euro tests.
It looks very cool. Product is usually invented in the place of need. Europe and Asia are quite congested compared to US. It would not be surprise to me the product is created in Europe. What surprise me is the origin is MIT. Nonetheless, I can see the product will get popular in the world provided that the infrastructure and regulation support it. You know, parking 2 of these in today's parking spot might cost you a ticket of double parking. ;)
In terms of a frontal collision, I think I'd worry less about an exit route than about the fact that the vehicle is designed to pivot to the front. That looks like the equivalent of a motorcycle highside (think the spear in an atlatl) and I doubt a standard shoulder belt would keep you in place. I'd be afraid it would throw me through that panel and break my legs in the process.
"You know, parking 2 of these in today's parking spot might cost you a ticket of double parking"
Here in Portland, Oregon, parking is paid at a ticking station that covers an entire block. There aren't fixed spots in a lot of these block so the city simply gets twice as much parking revenue if twice as many cars park in the same space.
I believe that parking regulations need to catch up with innovative transportation. Motorcycles, Smart Cars and The Fold all have the potential to pack more vehicles into the same space than more traditional vehicles. We have HOV lanes, why not offer "super compact" parking spaces at a discounted rate squeezed into places that cannot hold a big car? The city would get more parking revenue, more vehicles could be parked, and we wouldn't see motorcycles or Smart Cars occupying a parking space that could hold an Escalade. Already New York City parking garages have a surcharge for SUVs... why not a discount for the efficient alternatives?
The design and idea is cool but from what I see you can only fit two people into the car. You and three/four friends go out and take one car and one parking space or the group has to split up and take two/three of these cars and one parking space.
I have seen the prototype of such vehicle on MIT site. They called it the stack able car . The local govt bodies could have a pool of such cars parked at the convenient pick-up-drop points around city. To hire you just pickup the car on the top of the stack and after use leave it at your drop point again on the top of the stack.
A very innovative and space saving concept!
Interesting concept and design. I like the departure from the standard steering wheel, and the ability to put the car in "turn-in-place" mode.
I also think the idea of "sharable" or hire-able car pools is an interesting one for large groups/companies, or even publicly run in dense metro areas. It'll never catch on somewhere smaller or more spread out (like most of Canada). You'd also need to work out some sort of preference system. A smart card that keeps your seat, mirror, and other cabin setting so you can just connect and go. Especially important if you drive frequently from a pool.