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Electric folding car coming to a parking space near you

Parking is about to get a lot easier, as long as you don’t mind driving a car that folds in the middle.

Developed over the past four years by MIT, the Hiriko is an electric microcar that has the unique ability to make itself shorter than it already is.

The size of a Smart Fortwo when fully extended, the two-seat vehicle can shrink to about half its length and features a front-opening canopy to facilitate head-on curb parking. Three of them will fit side by side in a standard space.

As if urban maneuverability were an issue for such a small vehicle, the bubble-car rides on so-called “robot-wheels” that provide four-wheel steering and allow it to make an O-turn by rotating on its axis.

Powered by batteries, the Hiriko has a range of 62 miles per charge. An onboard computer has the ability to track its location and automatically restrict its speed to the legal limit, while its navigation system can tug at the wheel to tell the driver which way to go.

However, the most shocking thing about the futuristic car is that it will be in production by the end of the year.

The Spanish government has teamed up with a consortium of business from the country’s Basque region to manufacture the Hiriko – which means “urban” in the Basque language of Euskera - and deploy offer them through a point-to-point car-sharing program similar to the bicycle sharing schemes currently in place in many cities.

The first tests are scheduled to start in the city of Bilbao, Spain later this year and possibly Boston, as well. The Guardian reports that the cars will be manufactured in “deprived areas of cities that take up the scheme” in an effort to spur economic development.

The price for each vehicle is expected to be approximately $16,000.

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