Honda Reveals New Personal Mobility Device: Err... No Thanks

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If you've seen the animated Pixar film WALL-E, you'll remember a scene where humanity, after generations of being on a space ship where everything is done for them, are hugely overweight and never get out  of their hovering chairs to interact with the world.

That was the scene that came to mind when viewing the Honda UNI-CUB, an electric-powered personal mobility device, largely designed for indoor use and with a walking-pace top speed.

"UNI-CUB offers the same freedom of movement in all directions that a person enjoys while walking," writes Honda in its press release for the strange device.

So... why not walk, then?

Often you can make a case for odd devices like the UNI-CUB thanks to their benefits to the elderly or infirm, who struggle to move without the assistance of wheelchairs, stair-lifts and similar.

However, the upright riding position suggests that some degree of natural freedom of movement is required to ride it, so this is no replacement for the electric wheelchair.

Call us cynical if you will, but Honda has designed a mobility device that's no quicker than walking, has the same freedom of movement as walking, but can't go down stairs and needs charging every three miles.

We're sure it's a cleverly-engineered piece of technology--the UNI-CUB uses an omni-directional driving wheel system that lets users move freely in any direction, and control is via touch-panel or smartphone--but it's essentially a laziness device, something designed for perfectly mobile people to ferry themselves around without burning any calories.

We just hope the UNI-CUB is simply a quirky platform from which Honda is developing technologies like the omni-directional steering for a more useful future vehicle.

It's hard not to feel like Honda's huge wealth of engineering and electrical expertise could be better applied to something genuinely useful--like a practical, working electric car. And not just the Fit EV "compliance" car.

But if you're reading this from a hovering chair in a thousand years, don't say we didn't warn you...

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