Honda's U3-X: The Answer to Walking
Forget the Segway, there's a new, even dweebier way to get around
One would think automakers have enough on their plates right now trying to meet both government demand for tighter emissions standards and public cries for more fuel-efficient transportation to experiment with truly alternative forms of getting from point A to point B. Apparently that's not the case.
Honda just released some information on its latest project, the U3-X. No, it’s not a new engine or hybrid system; rather, it’s a personal mobility device in the grand tradition of the Segway. No joke.
As strange as the Japanese car company’s electric unicycle looks, it’s actually packed with some sharp tech. Just like the Segway, the machine is controlled simply by body movement thanks to "smarts" derived straight from Honda’s Asimo robot. Lean forward, and the U3-X will go forward. Lean to the right, it goes right. You get the picture?
Honda says its main goal with the device is to replicate human walking, and to that end, the U3-X’s wheel is actually made up of many tiny wheels. Those tiny rollers allow the device to sidestep without going forward or backing up. Honda calls the system HOT Drive. Engineers call it an “omnidirectional” wheel structure. Power comes from a lithium-ion battery, and the U3-X can scoot around for about an hour before needing to be recharged.
At first, we were a little perplexed as to why Honda would bother with something so, well, pointless. But the company has shown off a raft of new EV concepts, including an homage to the company’s N600 hatch. Called the EV-N, the battery-powered car is cute as can be and includes a neat storage area just for the U3-X. We’re guessing it also functions sort of like a dock, charging the unicycle while it’s not in use.
Is Honda hoping we’ll use the car to cover long distances and the U3-X to cover hikes from the Starbucks to the boutique? It’s hard to tell, but we should know a good deal more about both the electric unicycle and the retro EV-N around Oct. 24. That’s when the Tokyo Motor Show opens to the world, and Honda has promised a few more juicy details by then. In the meantime, we’ll keep scratching our heads and wondering what the Japanese carmaker has up its sleeves.
(Photo courtesy of Honda Motor Co.)
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