These entrepreneurs made a car that folds up – while you're driving it
'It will be a game-changer,' said company's founder.
The first thing you notice when you walk into the headquarters of City Transformer – a car startup based outside Tel Aviv, Israel – is the painting of Kramer on the wall. Yes, that Kramer. The one from "Seinfeld."
The portrait of the Energizer Bunny of a neighbor, the one who slides into Jerry's apartment at a moment's notice, is a metaphor of sorts for the four-year-old company. Their invention has come virtually out of nowhere and is poised to shake up the auto industry. To put it simply, they hope to crash the party. (Kramer – or Eyal Cremer to be precise – also happens to be the name of the company's Chief Design Officer.)
So what is it that they've created? A car that actually folds to take up less space – while you're driving. It's a neat trick, sure. Perhaps something you'd see the Batmobile do in a superhero movie as it weaves and bobs through a rush-hour chase sequence.
But it actually serves a practical purpose. With more people choosing to live in urban environments, space can be tight. In dense cities, families may choose it as a second car to help with quick errands. Picture yourself pulling up to a tiny parking space that's only big enough for a motorcycle. No problem. Hit the button, and your car shrinks to fit into the space. Their slogan? "Drive as a car. Park as a motorcycle."
"It will be a game-changer," Asaf Formoza, one of the company's founders and its CEO, told us as he gave a tour of their headquarters.
The company was founded by a few buddies who were bouncing around ideas after a night of beer drinking. One had a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Israel's Ben-Gurion University. Another had a physics background and had just spent time at Singularity University at NASA's research park in Silicon Valley. To round out the team, they brought on designers from Volvo and Daimler.
The car, which is available for pre-order now, is a case study in clean design. It contains only 1,000 parts, compared to the industry standard of about 20,000 in a regular car. It's all electric, and doesn't run on gas. It's autonomous-ready, which means that one day it will be able to drive itself.
City Transformer is envisioning a fleet of foldable cars positioned all across the globe. People who become members can rent one of the cars wherever they are. What's more, when you get into any of the cars, it will instantly recognize you and adjust the seats, temperature and music to your favorite settings. "Today, it's all about the experience," Udi Meridor, the Chief Innovation Officer, told From The Grapevine.
Formoza believes he's at the right place, at the right time. "It's very important for us to be in Israel, because in this ecosystem we have more than 400 startups just for the automotive sector," he explained. "And we can take some of their technologies, which are already proven, and adopt them to our car." They hope to have 50 of the cars on the streets of Tel Aviv within a year.
"To bring something like that as a solution for cities when so many people around the world are stuck in traffic jams, this is going to be something that I think can really change the experience of drivers," said project manager Itamar Meridor. "And this is what we're hoping to make a reality."
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE: