Forget the Segway and go ahead and sell your electric bike. Designer Kuniako Saito of Cocoa Motors has come up with what looks like a notebook computer on wheels, which can replace them both. It's called the Walk-Car, and it's a tiny little platform that weighs 6.5 pounds but is purported to be able carry a person weighing up to 265 pounds for a distance of 7.4 miles at six miles per hour. It's going to sell for about $800. Those are remarkable numbers for something so teensy, but if you watch the video, it seems to really work. You steer it by shifting your weight from one side to the other, and you stop it by hopping off. The 26-year-old designer tells Reuters:
"I thought, "what if we could just carry our transportation in our bags, wouldn't that mean we'd always have our transportation with us to ride on?" and my friend asked me to make one, since I was doing my masters in engineering specifically on electric car motor control systems."
Supporting it on four wheels instead of two like a Segway will certainly simplify the electronics and make it more stable, but again, those specifications are almost unbelievable, it would have to be all batteries. Tiny caster type wheels are also not very comfortable on rough surfaces, even though the video shows it going over them, as well as curbs.
Even if it seriously misses the specifications, this could be a useful product. One of the biggest problems in designing transit, particularly in lower-density areas, is the "first- and last-mile problem" — how do you get someone from the station or the bus stop that last mile to their door? Imagine if you could pull one of these out of your laptop bag and hop on.
Over on DesignBoom, they suggest that the portable vehicle is ideal for senior citizens. "Since it does fit any bag, this would be great for the elderly commuting between subways, buses and trams." I don't know what they were thinking. This requires some balance, perhaps not as much as a skateboard, (the video does show an older woman rolling along quite comfortably) but I cannot imagine mom riding off to the senior center on one of these.
The video does seem at times to be showing a product that is too good to be true, particularly at about the 1:05 mark, when the rider is pushing a handcart full of boxes up a hill at some speed. Those are magical batteries and motors there! (But oh, if it works, I so want one.)