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Design by Luis Pedro Fonseca

Hybrid Concept Car Changes Shape While You Drive

As a child of the ’80s, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Transformers. Those kindhearted robots blew our minds with their ability to go from everyday vehicle to mega-machine in seconds flat. For practical purposes, however, I always thought it would be terrifying to drive a car that might morph into something else without a moment’s notice. But a recent design concept out of Brazil might change all that.

Like many major cities, Sao Paulo, Brazil suffers from constant traffic congestion. Too many people in too many big cars makes it impossible to travel anywhere quickly or efficiently. Instead of simply encouraging people to give up their vehicles in favor or other modes of transportation, industrial designer Luis Fonseca imagined a car that could change its behavior instead.

Created as an entry into Shell’s GameChanger competition*, Fonseca’s EMO demonstrates the benefits of biomorphic design. The car has three driving modes or positions, and it fluctuates between each depending on driving speed. When the car is stationary or being parked, it employs its most upright position, which shrinks the overall size of the vehicle. When traveling between 0 and 30 mph, the car assumes its standard, slightly elevated position which is safer and allows allows the driver to see better in traffic. When traveling between 30 and 75 mph, the car appears to crouch, lowering its gravity center for a more aerodynamic shape.

The car employs a gyroscope system, similar to that used by the Segway, to avoid rolling over on hard turns. It also offers a new omniwheel technology that would allow it to park and drive sideways like a crab. According to Fonseca, it would also run on a combination of solar power and biofuels, although his design sketches don’t detail how this would be accomplished.

—  Beth Buczynski

You can see the winners of the GameChanger competition, including the pod car that won the grand prize, here.

This post originally appeared at EarthTechling and was republished with permission.

* Shell is sponsor of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge initiative. National Geographic maintains autonomy over content.