They’re called Personal Transporters nowadays, but way back in 2001 when Dean Kamen first introduced the Segway to the world, it was called an HT, for Human Transporter. It’s not just the marketing that has changed over the years, but also the public acceptance of this brand new type of transport.
Thirteen years later, despite the wide spread derision of the press and pundits over the idea that these self-balancing scooters (as they were sneeringly deemed) could ever become popular, there’s a quiet and nonetheless steady revolution going on in the market. Personal Transporters are starting to sell in numbers.
Here’s a group of the current crop of these clever devices for your entertainment.
1. InMotion SCV R1 – $2499
The latest ‘Segway Killer‘ (you get a lot of that in this business it seems) on the market, this tiny, super high tech craft features more gimmicks than poor old Dr Kamen could ever come up with. It not only talks to you with one of those eerie android type voices, but can also be controlled remotely via your smartphone, which offers up all sorts of ‘follow me’ scenarios, as well as an unintentionally hilarious but brilliant marketing video which shows a mother watching her sleeping child from work using the R1 as a super creepy remote presence robot. Wonderful stuff.
The product features a weight of 35 lbs, a range of up to 18 miles and a top speed of around 10 mph (complete with speed limiter). The price of this trunk friendly runabout is $2499, which apparently makes it suitable for earnest professionals.
2. Airwheel X3 Unicycle – $500
Probably the ultimate in cool runnings, this tiny self-balancing electric unicycle retails for a fraction of the price of rival scooters, but offers up even more convenience and performance. The product weighs 9.8kg, will go for around 10 miles on a charge, with a top speed of 10 mph. The device charges in 45 minutes from any normal socket, and features a hefty 1000W electric motor as the powertrain.
As well as being less scary to pedestrians than the tall standing scooters, it’s main claim to fame is the fact that you can sling it over your shoulder when you’re done with it, and it’s no bulkier than a backpack. Great for public transport. Apparently there’s a knack to getting on and off without hitting the tarmac bum first though. Priced at $500, plus shipping. Video.
3. Ecko Personal Chariot Scooter – $2399
When is an electric scooter not a scooter? When it’s a chariot of course. This odd shaped craft is clearly inspired by one of our favorite concept vehicles, the Honda UX-3, which unfortunately still has moved on from the drawing board to shops. Or maybe that’s just because of the video. The device weighs 57 lbs, has a max speed of 15 mph and a range of 19 miles, which is pretty good considering.
It’s clearly larger than your average scooter, but that probably makes it easier to maneuver and pop into the car at the end of a long day charioteering or whatever it’s called. Yours for a mere $2399.
4. Robstep Robin M1 – $2450
Back to the more conventional looking Segway bashers, this puppy also features some neat touches. Such as a ‘beginners mode‘ to help newcomers get used to how to ride the thing, plus headlights, a remote control and an optional front bag for carrying all your goodies. The Robin weighs in at 18.5 kg (40 lbs), has a maximum range of 20 miles depending on terrain (and probably a following wind) and a top speed of 15 km/h).
It’s billed as the world’s smallest personal transporter, and it certainly looks to be ridiculously small, according to the promo videos. But as they say, size means nothing, especially when it comes to getting you to work in the morning without hitting the traffic jams. Priced at $2450.
5. Bot 9 Scooter – $3250
If price is anything to go by (and it probably isn’t) then this stylish two-wheeler should be the pick of the crop. With a price not far off a full blown Segway, this sleek steed boasts of a kinetic energy recovery system, which scoops back power into the battery on braking, plus some very fancy LED lighting on the chassis. At 23.5 kg it’s not super light, but it still delivers up to 15.5 miles range and a top speed of 12.5 mph, which is enough to outrun your general push bike. Video.
As with all of these scooters, there’s not really a lot of luggage space, so you’re limited to carrying lightweight stuff on your back or in your hand, unless you opt for an optional clip on bag. Still, we can understand why they’re marketing these things to trendy young exec types, because it’s short distance travel without all the sweat. Which matters to a lot of people. Whether it’s worth the $3250 is another matter.
So there you have it. Dean Kamen’s genius didn’t let him down, it’s just taken a while for the full potential to sink in around the world. Of course there are still issues to be ironed out, like who owns the sidewalk, and can I steal your electricity at work please, but these are mere trifles compared to working out what to do with all those horses once Ford started making waves in earnest at the turn of the century.
The Personal Transporter looks to be alive and well, and living something of a flourishing life in China at least. It’s probably only a matter of time, right?