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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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Comments (10)
  1. Does seem like a questionable mode of transport. Maybe for the airport, but there is a baggage problem there.
     
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  2. After seeing this device I suddenly pictured the "Genius" meme. You know the one that displays a mentally disabled engineer.
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/design_images/images/490/Genius-meme.png?1333371359
     
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  3. "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." Fine, now let's hear you tell those Honda engineers where they can find an affordable, practical battery. So far every non-compliance EV (excepting Tesla's Model S) has been a money losing proposition that hasn't advanced the EV technology one iota. Sure, let's spend another couple billion of stockholder's money (retirees, mostly) to produce another Leaf lookalike. I'm sure those retirees will be grateful as all get out.
     
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  4. Really, Kent? Most stockholders of Honda are retiress? Really...? And your source would be...?

    And yes, the Tesla Model S is profitable... Oh, that's right, it hasn't even been released yet so you don't have any clue about whether it will be profitable or not over the next few years. King of the Tesla Kool-Aid drinkers, aren't you?

    has an actual service center that will support repair work. You know, like companies like BMW, Honda, etc. have already spent. Yeah, those alleged profits from 20k vehicles a year will magically allow Tesla to outengineer others with more resources and actual facilities, dealers, repair shops, etc...
     
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  5. It looks like Honda's attempt at building a motorized bar stool.
     
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  6. They do race bar stools, but somehow I think you already knew that.

    http://www.minichopperssocal.com/BARSTOOL-COMPLETE.html
     
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  7. Yes I've seen them, and now I've seen the sleek electric Japanese version ; )
     
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  8. I've raced a bar stool also, John. However, I didn't win.
     
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  9. Too funny. What a waste of Honda engineering money. Looks like an electric unicycle and the models shown using it are slim and physically fit and would not need to use it. I don't think the makers of the hover-round have anything to worry about Honda's electric unicycle. Who would buy one of these? certainly not the elderly or physically disabled since it doesn't look like it would be usable by a person who is physically disabled
     
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  10. Maybe people on crutches (for whatever reason) would use these. But since crutches are temporary, these would have to be rentable, probably from hospitals and doctors' offices.

    Maybe a museum (or anywhere you walk a lot) would have these on hand for old folks who can usually walk just fine, but have trouble walking for a long period of time. Malls?
     
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