Germany’s ‘EO Smart Connecting Car 2’ Is the Future of Urban Driving

Let’s Put This Story into Reverse

EO1 unveiled in 2012 as the first prototype
EO1 unveiled in 2012 as the first prototype (Photo: PR Fotodesign)

There’s one known fact in the automotive world and that is “You can’t beat German engineering!” The EO Smart Connecting Car was first developed by engineers of the Robotics Innovation Center at DFKI Bremen and unveiled in the first quarter (Jan/Mar) of 2012. EO is Latin for – “I go”. Described as “A car that is extremely flexible, can change shapes, and adjusts to the current traffic conditions”, it was also seen as “the car that in the not too distant future will drive itself.” The then prototype was part of the “New Mobility in Rural Areas” project that focused on investigating the innovative technologies of electromobility’.

7 phresh facts from the 'Electromobility in Germany: Vision 2020 and Beyond'
7 phresh facts from the ‘Electromobility in Germany:
Vision 2020 and Beyond’

The “Not Too Distant Future” Has Arrived!

With just five years away from Germany’s 2020 through their “National Electromobility Development Plan” (Read more here…) it comes as no surprise that they’ve revealed the EO Smart Connecting Car 2 (EO2)! This version does everything they said they wanted to achieve for the future and is poised to become a revolutionary urban and lifestyle vehicle. Berlin is Europe’s third most popular city for tourist visits, just behind Paris and London (in that order).

Meet the EO Smart Connecting Car 2

Video: Dipl.-Inform Timo Birnschein, DFKI GmbH

Always being one who looked forward to prototyping, upgrades and movie sequels, the anticipation for any improvement and iteration of an idea or design is for something more exciting and dramatic than the last. The DFKI engineers did not disappoint and have unleashed a winner capable of steering the automotive world into the future. Here’s a snapshot of what the EO2 can do:

  • Double Ackermann axial actuation, drive by wire, and autonomy
  • Drive Mode: Turn on the spot – less stress, more safety, and easier access
  • Drive Mode: Drive sideways for easy parking without hasty maneuvers
  • Drive Mode: Folded for parking – still fully drivable with reduced speed
  • Turn within parking space to drive out forward – improves safety and usability

The EO2 is a dynamic micro-car capable of “growing” from approximately 1.6 (5’3”) to 2.1 metres (6’10”) in height and “shrinks” to roughly half a metre (1’8″) to a length of less than two metres (6’7″). Through its space saving design, the EO2 can facilitate a mechanical connection to other e-cars to form its “fittingly” dubbed “road train”. This definitely redefines some aspects of traditional carpooling, as well as what mass transit could look like within a decade.

A computer simulation of several EO1 prototypes in a so called “road train”
A computer animation of several EO1 prototypes in a so called “road train” (Video Still: DFKI GmbH and Source: Animation Labs)

You know those moments you get stuck crawling out of a narrow space in a parking garage? The EO2 solves this issue courtesy of spatially distributed drives. Then there are those drivers who spend 10 minutes or more of their mornings searching for available on-street parking. We also have those drivers who struggle with parallel parking; well fear not, the EO2 has specially designed axles allowing each of the four wheels to turn 90 degrees. It can basically mimic the movements of a crab. The EO2 comes in at a lightweight 750 kg skillfully maneuvering within a short distance, moving diagonally or raising each wheel separately.

EO2 with wheels that turn 90 degrees for easier parking into a tight spot
EO2 with wheels that turn 90 degrees for easier parking into a tight spot (Photo: Timo Birnschein, DFKI GmbH)

Presently, it has a top speed of about 65 km/h (or 40mph). Currently the EO2 can travel 50 to 70 kilometers (30 to 44 miles) on a single four-hour full charge of the 54V – LiFePo4 battery. The micro car prototype comes able to connect to charging stations, but is still some distance away from becoming road-legal. But with so many of the world’s major cities growing at a rapid rate and as economies continue to boom, more and more cars will be bought by consumers. The EO2 presents a timely solution for greener and cleaner urban transport. It’ll be interesting to see how soon this vehicle makes its way to market. If I had to guess, I’d say within another five years. I’ll be watching with enthusiasm.

Daimler Introduces the First Autonomous Truck to the U.S. That Makes Me Think Optimus Prime

Auto-Maker Daimler, straight out of Germany, introduced the world’s first autonomous truck on Tuesday night, May 5th, atop the famous U.S. landmark, The Hoover Dam. Dubbed the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, it is the world’s first self-driving truck licensed to drive on public roads as part of the Highway Pilot system.

Infographic illustrating the highway benefits of the first licensed autonomous truck
Infographic illustrating the highway benefits of the first licensed autonomous truck

As an autonomous truck, it is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input thanks to Daimler’s unique sensor and camera technology. The company has stated a driver must be present, but that driver has the option to relinquish control to the 18-wheel commercial vehicle. That’s a relief for not only safety reasons, but from an economic standpoint it means that for right now humans won’t be losing their jobs to robots.

Look at all the pretty blue lights
Look at all the pretty blue lights

It seems like technology is “driving” us more and more into the future and every month or so a new car company announces its driverless vehicle. I still can’t help thinking about The Transformers, so in the iconic words and voice of Optimus Prime, ROLL OUT!”

Optimus Prime in battle mode
Optimus Prime in battle mode