The unveiling of the new Toyota Winglet electric personal transport devicelast week must have sent shudders coursing down the back of Segway investors everywhere. Built in partnership with Sony’s robot division, the new concept looks infinitely more appealing than the clunky Segway, although it does suffer from a number of performance limitations. For a start it can only move at a maximum of 6 kph and the range is a measly 10 km (compared to the Segway’s 38 km range and 20 kph top speed).
Still it’s a fascinating example of the Japanese art of advancing technology in different ways. If the Segway had launched in this form factor it might not have attracted so much criticism as a pedestrian vehicle. It’s not hard to imagine this type of product being used anywhere a person can go, and without scaring other sidewalk users witless. Anyway it’s still very early days, but I’ll stick my neck out and predict that this product, or something like it, will be a major part of the transportation systems of the future. Unless they give me my air car first. More here.
The Winglet consists of a body (with a projected area the size of an A3 sheet of paper) that houses an electric motor, two wheels and internal sensors that constantly monitor the user’s position and make adjustments in power to ensure stability. A unique parallel link mechanism allows the rider to go forward, backward and turn simply by shifting body weight, making the vehicle safe and useful even in tight spaces or crowded environments. Toyota has created three models, the “L”, “M” and “S”, each having different handling features that allow consumers to select a model appropriate to their needs – from “practical” to “hands-free sporty”