Toyota Motor on Friday showed off a new stand-up scooter that could one day be seen zipping alongside the Segway on the personal-transporter superhighway.
The "Winglet" has a body the size of an A3 sheet of paper that houses an electric motor, two wheels, and internal sensors that constantly monitor the rider's position and make adjustments in power to ensure stability.
A parallel link mechanism lets riders go forward, backward, and turn by shifting body weight, making the Winglet potentially useful for maneuvering in tight spaces or crowded urban environments.
Riders can cruise around at a leisurely 3.7 mph--not ideal for rushing to a meeting, but nice for scooting around a shopping mall, perhaps. (The Segway, by comparison, can hit 12.5 mph.)
The Winglet comes in small, medium, and large sizes ranging in height from 18 inches to 3 feet 8 inches, with handlebars that also rise to different levels. All three models are about 18 inches wide and 10 inches long. The smallest version weighs 22 pounds, and can be folded and tossed into a (big) bag for optimal shoulder dislocation. All versions of the device take an hour to charge.
No word yet on when we might see commuters atop the contraptions. The company will start testing the vehicle this fall at a Japanese airport and a seaside resort. More testing is planned for 2009 at shopping complexes and other bustling locales.