So why the sudden shift toward smaller vehicles? Using GPS data collected from thousands of cars driving through European cities, UK traffic information service KeepMoving.co.uk found that London has the slowest-moving traffic in Europe. Cars in England's capital crawl along at an average of only 12 mph, even with a congestion charge in certain zones of £8 (about $16 USD). Other cities like Berlin (15 mph), Warsaw (16 mph) and Rome (19 mph) also suffer from slow movement despite large public transportation systems like subways [source: World Car Fans].
Meanwhile, construction companies continue to benefit from building parking lots and multilevel parking facilities in the United States -- but an increased amount of space isn't making it any easier for drivers looking for a place to park, and traffic in big cities fails to improve. Students at Stanford University, for instance, continue to experience nothing but frustration after the addition of more than 3,000 parking spots between 1997 and 2007 [source: The Stanford Daily]. So what's going on?
Some suggest that increasing the parking supply by adding lot upon lot doesn't help. It only encourages more people to drive and places a twofold strain on the environment -- we're forced to pave more parking lots, therefore disrupting the surrounding soil and vegetation, and the jump in the number of cars on the road leads to a bigger carbon footprint measurement. On top of this, it costs plenty of money to build lots, and the extra cars on the road only increase the amount of accidents -- that only makes auto insurance agencies happy [source: Transportation Demand Management].
Minicars like the iQ Car, with better efficiency and less space, might offer a solution to the problems affecting both traffic and parking. As long as the number of cars on the road didn't increase, the extra space could ease bumper-to-bumper traffic in congested areas.
Parking in a minicar is a whole different experience, too. For those of us who struggled through the parallel parking section of the driving test, parking in crowded downtown areas can be a nightmare. The idea of fitting a 15-foot long vehicle into a space that looks much smaller than 15 feet is enough to make you skip that spot close to the store and park farther away. The length of the iQ Car is only 10 feet, though, about the same as the width of a parallel parking spot on the side of the street. In theory, you could squeeze two or three iQs into one spot.
This new generation of smaller, ultracompact cars may simultaneously solve the messy problem of overcrowded parking lots, gridlocked highways and the dreaded blind spot. For lots more information on cars, traffic and related topics, see the links on the next page.