As a child of the ’80s, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Transformers. Those kindhearted robots blew our minds with their ability to go from everyday vehicle to mega-machine in seconds flat. For practical purposes, however, I always thought it would be terrifying to drive a car that might morph into something else without a moment’s notice. But a recent design concept out of Brazil might change all that.

Like many major cities, Sao Paulo, Brazil suffers from constant traffic congestion. Too many people in too many big cars makes it impossible to travel anywhere quickly or efficiently. Instead of simply encouraging people to give up their vehicles in favor or other modes of transportation, industrial designer Luis Fonseca imagined a car that could change its behavior instead.

Created as an entry into Shell’s GameChanger competition*, Fonseca’s EMO demonstrates the benefits of biomorphic design. The car has three driving modes or positions, and it fluctuates between each depending on driving speed. When the car is stationary or being parked, it employs its most upright position, which shrinks the overall size of the vehicle. When traveling between 0 and 30 mph, the car assumes its standard, slightly elevated position which is safer and allows allows the driver to see better in traffic. When traveling between 30 and 75 mph, the car appears to crouch, lowering its gravity center for a more aerodynamic shape.

The car employs a gyroscope system, similar to that used by the Segway, to avoid rolling over on hard turns. It also offers a new omniwheel technology that would allow it to park and drive sideways like a crab. According to Fonseca, it would also run on a combination of solar power and biofuels, although his design sketches don’t detail how this would be accomplished.

—  Beth Buczynski

You can see the winners of the GameChanger competition, including the pod car that won the grand prize, here.

This post originally appeared at EarthTechling and was republished with permission.

* Shell is sponsor of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge initiative. National Geographic maintains autonomy over content.


  1. John Cook, Ph.D.
    June 15, 2012, 2:57 am

    I developed a unique CityCar (Using that name also) in 1975, several years after completing my doctoral. It was a small car, as wide as it was long or about 6.5×6.5 ft plus the shock absorbing bumpers. A body that lifted clear on back or front hinges to load allowed parking forward or backward to the curb. A 9 inch high section remained to retain items and avoid things spilling into the street. It could seat four, cruise at 52MPH, and used a horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine on a one speed automatic trans that delivered 88MPG. The unusual part was that it was not designed to sell, but rent. Restricted to city use only within a planned area, where all other vehicles (except delivery) were illegal. CityCars were for rent at any time they were not in use or “rented”.

    This was 35 years ago and the city of San Jose, fortunate enough to have some very intelligent people in office at the time, was was ready to buy if I could find a builder.

    Only Chrysler would see me and I was met by a kid with who could not imagine anything that lacked a V8 and a Babe on each arm because he had a fine car. It was a waste of my time. This idiot actually had a degree in engineering, and after a bit of time to start him talking on his subjects, he admitted that his father was able to get him through college. He passed with a grade of $1,200 in advanced algebra, $2,300 in English, and so on.

    Chrysler hired him based on a college diploma, not what he was capable of. Very sadly it is the same today as idiot Americans want to retain the voting system instead of making a persons entrance into politics determined by testing and psychological interviews by a large number of independent psychologists. Design the system around intelligence that has American interest first, not the sad and miserable process that put someone in office who decided to invade another country based on what GOD wanted him to do.

    Does anyone realize that our system creates the problems we have and that dropping the 900 million dollar campaign costs in favor of a testing program and series of psychological evaluations would place the best person for the job in office? What the hell is wrong with people?

    Oh wow, I’m sorry. I forgot to act in a proper and apathetic manner. I actually cared about America today!

    The world works like this…sadly!

  2. Sol
    June 13, 2012, 7:16 pm

    Nothing new here. Concept car designs that adopt different postures based on speed have been around for at least a couple of decades. Most notably, the MIT CityCar, now called Hiriko, will actually get a few units made in a small production run next year.

  3. surya prakash k n
    Bangalore India
    June 11, 2012, 11:25 am

    It is high time countries find alternate to crude oil and its by
    product. It will greatly help all especially the developing nations. The nature<s alternate energy affordable to common man is the need of the hour