Daniel Susco
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GM Files Patent for Folding Cars

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Weird patents are fun. They can give us a glimpse of a future where, for example, Google self-driving cars could scoop up unwary pedestrians on crumbling hoods concealing human flypaper, while nearby a drone branded with the Amazon smile logo plugs into an electric car, filling the car’s battery.

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A recently published patent from General Motors shows what looks like a folded-up box on wheels driving up to a person hailing a ride at the side of the road. The box then unfolds to form a car, the young person hops in, and away it goes.

GM transforming car patent

Specifically, the patent is on a system where a vehicle (presumably a self-driving one) can reshape itself. That includes a hand-held “input device” that could tell the vehicle to unfold and what shape it should take, and the vehicle itself—potentially with a lowering top, and potentially with a clam-shell top that slides up out of the side panels and connects in the middle.

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Generally, it’s pretty vague, but offers some intriguing images, and could offer distinct advantages for self-driving car fleets. When there is nobody in the car, it could fold the roof (including the windshield) down, thus cutting out that drag and saving on fuel (or electricity, given that GM’s current self-driving fleet consists of Chevy Bolts). In another way, the vehicle could reduce its width to fit through tight traffic situations, or just to fit more self-driving cars into a bay of chargers.

In any case, I will take my clamshell-top self-driving fully-electric Corvette whenever Chevy is ready to deliver it.

News Sources: GM Authority, GM Inside NewsFreePatentsOnline.com