Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Smart car?

I am talking about "the smart car". The one Mercedes Benz is planning on introducing in the US. A few years ago I saw this car in France and I was impressed by its cuteness and compact design. I have seen people use it on city streets. Parking it is a breeze. In fact, you can park two in a single car garage. It is like a motorbike, but you get protection from the weather as well as the road hazards. It is a great solution for city driving, especially in congested places. This would be a great solution to the crowded streets of India.

Today, I saw a smart car on I-90 while driving home. I was almost shocked that someone had the nerve to take it on a freeway. I know they talk about the 'tridion safety cell' and all that, but seeing a smart car on a freeway along with an 18-wheeler is scary. In accidents, people get crushed to pulp in much bigger cars. One of the selling points of vans and SUVs is their safety factor. Imagine driving along on a freeway in this puny car, and when the time to merge comes, you floor the gas pedal, and nothing happens!

It is a great car for city driving. Its gas mileage, its compactness and ease of maneurability should be a boon for congested cities. But, the other issue is with capacity. In places like Bangalore (where I see this car as being a perfect fit), it isn't uncommon to see a family (couple and two kids) riding in a scooter or motorcycle. So, a two seater car would be a hard sell. Unless, they modify it for Asian markets to accommodate at least one more (small) person.