Honda unveils new electric unicycle

On Tuesday Honda Motor Co. showed off its newest electric vehicle, but it’s not a car or motorcycle, or any other transportation means the company is recognized for. No, this is a single-seat, single-person, wheeled transport in the form of an electric unicycle. At first glance, the UNI-CUB has the appearance of a black and white upright-standing vacuum cleaner, except then you realize it has a bicycle seat on the top and two pegs for foot rests.

The personal mobility device has a small wheel sticking out of the back that is used to steer and maneuver the rider. Users can move in all four directions, forward, backward, and side to side, as well as diagonally, all by shifting their weight in the direction they want to go. While riders won’t be winning any high-speed races with the device, they will be able to blow past those walking on their own two feet at a blazing 6 kilometers per hour (3.7 MPH).

The company envisions the UNI-CUB to be used in large, spacious buildings, such as airports or museums. Honda will be working with the Japanese National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation for testing purposes. But don’t expect to hop on one the next time you visit Narita International Airport; as of now, it is only intended to be sold on a commercial basis.

The UNI-CUB comes from Honda’s renown robotic technology division, which has been responsible for the famous white, humanoid-shaped robot named ASIMO, capable of running, pouring a beverage, and understanding speech. The UNI-CUB evolved from the U3-X, another unicycle-shaped transport that was shown three years ago. Mamoru Mori, the science museum’s director and former NASA astronaut, was there to give the live demonstration. He describes riding it as similar to floating, almost like in zero-gravity. While the only real competition the transport device has at this point is the Segway electric scooter, created in 2001 in the U.S., Honda says the UNI-CUB has a major advantage in the fact that its hands-free, as opposed to the Segway’s bicycle-like handlebar. Engineers point out that the riders’ feet are also very close to the ground, making it easier to keep balance and therefore weave around pedestrians with little effort.


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