GM to patent shape-shifting car designs
In director Michael Bay's version of the "Transformers" franchise, the world of Decepticons and Autobots is heavily populated by General Motors products. Bumblebee used to be an old Volkswagen Beetle, but now it's a late-model Camaro. As reported by GM Inside News, GM has filed for patent applications that indicate the company is trying to develop real-life Transformers of its own. These cars won't change into robots, though. The shape-shifting designs will most likely be used for autonomous cars.
Per the report, GM has filed a patent for a “Method and Systems for Reconfiguring a Vehicle Geometry.” The patent drawings show a basic vehicle design that allows for shifting passenger compartments. The idea is that an autonomous vehicle could shrink down when it's not hauling people. When the the time comes to pick up passengers, the roof could extend upward and the vehicle could expand to accommodate passengers in its seats.
This has numerous potential advantages. If a vehicle could shrink its aerodynamic footprint, it would improve fuel economy or preserve battery life. The drawings show a vehicle with a windshield and roof that folds away. GM envisions this shape-shifting car operating in a fashion similar to the way your windows work. Instead of just the glass disappearing into the body work, it's parts of the body that would slide into the rest of the car and alter the vehicle's shape. Thus the lower aerodynamic drag.
Additionally, if the vehicle's body panels could move inward, it would be easier to find parking spaces. This means more such vehicles could crowd around a bank of chargers, or more cars could fit in a garage or parking lot.
Don't expect the tech to hit the road any time soon. The crash-testing involved with such shiftable body panels would lend itself to interesting results, and the motors and mechanisms needed to move the panels might add weight that could negate any aerodynamic benefits.
In the meantime, if you want to see any new Transformers, you'll just have to wait until 2019 when the seventh installment of this terrible series of films hits the theaters.