CES 2: Wheels = 1

When most people think of ‘transportation,’ they don’t think ‘gadget,’ and thus, CES.  Some are trying to change that worldview.  First came Segways, which didn’t break out of niches as planned.  With more work and lower part prices, Solowheel did the same job in unicycle form, hence the name.  It, too, had issues.  Balance is certainly easier than a “dumb” unicycle, but they have no seat.  You resort to using your knees for body english.  The SBU V3 aids this, with a seat to both rest on, and lean against for finer control.


Photo credit: Onewheel

CES now brought us the Onewheel.  Instead of a Segway/ unicycle hybrid, it’s a Segway/skateboard.  You still lean to turn, but now forward/back… and bow/stern.  Makers compare it to snowboarding, partially since one huge, pneumatic wheel soaks up bumps way better than 4 tiny, solid ones.  Consider it the Segway’ed Wheelman Bushpig, out for 10 years now.

Options for final-mile transport (from your door, to public transport) are growing.  Just in time for global urbanization and US re-urbanization.  But I’d still work on it- the Onewheel has issues.

Day 0: some people can’t balance at all.  A big slice of mankind won’t even consider this.  Obviously the Onewheel is designed for (and marketed to) able-bodied youth, more likely to be sure-footed and open-minded.

Day 1: a skateboard is less than a hundred bucks; this is well over a thousand.  Yes, over a thousand, like the Solowheel and SBU V3.  The high parts count (once you include discretes and connectors) meant that it wouldn’t be cheaper than a skateboard, and especially two-wheeled “carving” boards.  How many young people have a free thousand?

Day 2: when you actually take a Onewheel around town, you need to pick it up.  Its design does not lend itself to chaining to a pole.  Yet, a skateboard picks up readily, perhaps after a neat ollie.  You then sling it over a shoulder, or under one arm.  The Onewheel doesn’t sit well on your back, especially on rainy days, and might never.  It appears the best carry solution is a Onewheel-sized backpack.  Even then, it’s 25 pounds.

Day 3: a skateboard doesn’t become useless when you get tired, or one leg cramps up.  The Onewheel, however, is- it can’t glide unpowered, or if some part shorted out.  Bust out that backpack, your Onewheel is now a dead weight.  Electrified conventional skateboards can at least glide, and may even recharge themselves regeneratively.  Hence, CES also saw the Yuneec E-Go, a 4-wheeler.  The board is falsely named, however, as it’s hardly unique.  It was preceded by the Zboard, among others.  And yet, the Yuneec is also over seven hundred dollars, while the Zboard is below $700.

Final miles are closing, for whatever reason- I was considering inline skates.  The miles must close, if we are to continue densifying development, expanding transportation options besides single-occupant cars, reduce emissions, improve balance of trade, and secure entire regions.


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