Praveen Subramani Fusing Design, Technology, and Cities

Hiriko City Car

The CityCar is a concept car designed and developed by my research group at the MIT Media Lab. This two-passenger, folding electric vehicle is the world's first "electronic" passenger car, featuring drive-by-wire control systems, robotic wheels that integrate driving/steering/braking/suspension, and a fully digital control system. The CityCar is designed to be integrated with one-way electric vehicle sharing systems developed at the Media Lab known as Mobility-on-Demand. As a researcher at the Media Lab, I was responsible for the battery and electronics architecture of the CityCar and its connection to charging infrastructure, including renewable energy sources within cities.

MIT Media Lab Smart Cities Team with City-Car Half-Scale Prototype (April 2011)

In 2010, a Media Lab sponsor and technology incubator from the Basque Region of Spain, named Denokinn, approached our lab with interest in licensing the technology underlying the CityCar. The result was the Hiriko consortium, a commercial start-up focused on building a full-scale version of the vehicle and taking our lab concept to production. I spent 2010-2011 working intensively on this project, specifically the battery systems and high power distribution system for the vehicle. I spent the summer of 2011 working in Vitoria, Spain to test and validate the battery systems that were designed in conjunction with Li-ion battery manufacturers and a consortium of Spanish automotive suppliers. I was also central to developing the business negotiations and relationships between a number of battery suppliers and the Hiriko consortium, including technology evaluation and sales negotiations.

Working with the Spanish engineering team to validate and install the Li-ion batteries and high-voltage electronics into the full-scale Hiriko City Car (Jun 2011)

In January 2012, the full-scale CityCar prototype was unveiled to the world at the European Union Commission Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Branded "Hiriko," the vehicle incorporates all of the essential concepts of the MIT Media Lab CityCar: a folding chassis to occupy a small footprint when parked, drive-by-wire control, front entry and egress, the ability to spin on its axis, and “Robot Wheels” with integrated electric drive motor, steering motor, suspension, and braking.

The MIT Media Lab team with the full-scale prototype in Brussels (Jan 2012)

Hiriko prototype unveiling at the European Union Commission Headquarters in Brussels (Jan 2012)

MIT Media Lab Documentation

Major External Press Coverage