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New automobile tech is a stretch

By Stephen HumphriesStaff Writer for The Christian Science Monitor / June 19, 2008

Shape shifter: BMW’s new fabric-shell concept car, named GINA.

Photo courtesy of BMW

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BMW’s new concept car, named GINA, is entirely sheathed in lycra that is stretched, skinlike, over its metal frame. The car resembles the Batmobile clad in spandex. The vehicle’s big utility: It can alter its shape. A movable skeleton underneath the skin allows hidden headlights to open like eyelids. You won’t see a fleet of vestured vehicles on the road anytime soon, but BMW is excited by the idea of a shape-shifter.

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“There are fairly new pedestrian impact regulations in Europe that require cars to be designed in such a way that the front of the car is designed to protect pedestrians,” says BMW Product Communications Manager Dave Buchko. The frame of this car could tilt higher at low speeds “where you’re more likely to encounter pedestrian traffic,” he says. “At higher speeds and highway speeds ... that frame can move in a way to allow the skin to come down lower, which is more aerodynamic.” (Click here to see a video.) Now BMW just has to figure out whether a car wash involves bundling GINA’s skin in with the dirty laundry.