Some really cool ideas on how personal transportation will change soon
WHENEVER YOU see a sci-fi movie or read an future fantasy article or column, it usually depicts personal transportation as all about flying cars, levitating hover-boards and amazing cubes that drive themselves. But that’s way in the future. Five years from now, we are to expect driverless cars, flying bikes and one-person helicopters. But even that’s pretty long to wait. What about right now? The world of personal transportation has been largely unchanged for decades, with cars and two wheelers only. Now, there finally is some cool out-of-the-box thinking happening. It’s so out of the box that you can’t even see how far back the box has been left behind! Here are two examples.
SMOOTH RIDE The Gocycle G2 is an eBike minus the ugliness and weight that comes with it
THE SEGWAY KILLER THAT OWNS SEGWAY
Remember Segway? You’ve seen them in use at airports and malls and even at some Diwali mela at 500 a pop. Segway personal transporters were supposed to have rewritten the rules of getting around, but unfortunately, their absolutely ridiculous prices turned them into the toys of the rich or utilities of the corporate honchos. Then, another roadblock: Segway sued a Chinese company for copying their product and coming up with a ‘me too’. In an even more bizarre twist, Ninebot (the Chinese company) bought out Segway (the company suing them). And to add an M-Night-Shyamalanian shocker to the story, Xiaomi (the Chinese company flush with more money than they know what to do with) funded a large part of that buyout. The result of all of that? A brand new personal transport vehicle called the Xiaomi Ninebot Mini that does everything a Segway can do, but destroys the price problem by a factor of 20. Yes, a Segway costs about US$ 6500 but the Ninebot Mini comes in at US$ 300! So for about ` 18,000 here’s what you will be able to do with the NBM. You’ll stand on it and realise it’s really stable and intuitive to subtle body movements (lean forward slightly and it’ll take off straight and fast, lean a bit to the right or left to manoeuvre and stand straight to come to a stop). And you’ll be on your way in minutes. It has a battery life of about 30km, speed of about 20kmph, a LED path lighting system and a mobile app to control all the
features. You can use it like a remote-controlled robot (frighten the dog, send something to someone in another room) and even make it go uphill and handle speed bumps. It learns too. As you ride it for a few hours, an intelligent self-learning algorithm analyses and adjusts control parameters with the help of multiple sensors embedded within. So for 18K, you get a non-polluting battery-operated personal transportation vehicle that is also fun and also has artificial intelligence. Try getting a million-dollar car to do that.
FROM A F1 CAR TO A G2 BIKE
Take a man that has actually designed Formula 1 race cars all his life (Richard Thorpe, a former design engineer at McLaren Cars), put inside him an obsession to create a Formula 1-style electric bicycle. What you get is the Gocycle G2. Thorpe set up the company Karbon Kinetics a few years back with one single goal: to design the most technologically advanced and effective eBike without any of the ugliness and weight that usually comes with it. The G2 weighs almost nothing, folds down, its wheels come off and it can go anywhere you want. With a motor and batteries, plus multiple ways to get assisted power (you can get the motor to kick in as you pedal or you can use the throttle to zoom and cruise) the Gocycle is a great ride.
With speeds upto 25 kmph, a battery that lasts for about 60 kilometres and a recharge time of about five hours, this can be the best way to get around town (as soon as we can solve the small problem of no cycling tracks and the fact that you will die of pollution-induced lung cancer before the battery on this runs out). The extremely lightweight injection-moulded magnesium body is beautifully constructed, the rear suspension takes bumps like a champion, the chain is completely enclosed and doesn’t need greasing and can never attract dust or water, the pedals fold away, the handlebar has easy to read LED readout for battery and speed, it connects to a phone app to set up and even control. It’s quite a list of tech gone wild! And while all that is very future forward, the price tag isn’t. This one will set you back by about $ 5,000.
That’s just two examples of what the personal transportation category has to offer. It’s just the start and a lot more will happen in the next few months. This is a great stop-gap arrangement till we are all flying in our cars and personal helicopters. Godspeed!