The Segway wasn’t always just the transportation of choice for out-of-shape mall cops and tourists who can’t be bothered to walk from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. When it was introduced, the idea was that it would render cars obsolete, making “walking” so quick and effortless that urban planners would be forced to start building cities at human scale.
Instead, a decade later, we’re asking “hey, is there any way we could have a similar technology, but even lazier?” Honda has your answer. Its Uni-Cub is battery-powered and balance-controlled like a Segway, but instead of steering by shifting weight from foot to foot, you sit down and steer by shifting weight from cheek to cheek. Phew! All that standing still was getting really exhausting.
Of course, this has some genuine, non-laziness-based uses. It could be a godsend for people who use mobility scooters or wheelchairs — the footprint is about the same as a standing human, so it’s a lot less unwieldy and easier to navigate through a hallway or grocery aisle. As shown in the video, it also puts your head at about the same height as the person you’re walking with, which is a big improvement over scooters and wheelchairs too. (It only gets 3.7 miles to the charge, though — way less than a scooter.) This definitely wouldn’t work for all wheelchair-requiring conditions, but it would work for a lot of them.
But the video shows entire fantasy offices, museums, libraries, and malls full of folks butt-sliding around on their Uni-Cubs. I am all for a fancy new mobility gadget for people who need a fancy new mobility gadget, but Honda’s goal seems to be more like “a fancy new mobility gadget for able-bodied people who need to get from the Sharper Image to J. Crew, because god forbid you should walk down a hallway.” It’s like they figure the only reason the Segway didn’t kill the car is that people in cars get to sit down.
And, you know, they’re probably right. So look for the Uni-Cub soon under a butt near you.
Today's Sign of the Apocalypse: The Butt-Steered "Personal Mobility Device", Mother Jones.