Cheetahs aren't just the fastest animal on land; they can also turn on a dime thanks to a long tail that serves as a counterbalance when cornering. So it makes perfect sense that if you want to improve the handling of a man-made vehicle, you'll slap a cheetah-like tail on the back. And that's exactly what researchers at the University of Cape Town have done with this highly maneuverable robot car named Dima.
You may recall that the engineers at UC Berkeley tried the same thing a while ago, but Dima works a bit differently. Instead of using its tail to generate torque to make a sharp turn, the tail counteracts the forces that could cause the robot to roll when cornering. So it keeps all four wheels on the ground, letting it continue to accelerate even while drastically changing directions.
And there's no reason to think the same approach couldn't be used for cars, too, except that the oversized tails needed to keep your Corvette on four wheels would act like a giant sledge hammer to other vehicles on the road that get too close. [University of Cape Town via IEEE Spectrum]