Last fall I blogged about a monocycle, the MV Agusta 60cc Monomoto Superleggera, that was supposedly raced in the 1960’s in Italy. Well that was the story, but the reality was somewhat different. One needed only to look at the picture to see that not only wasn’t it a functioning single-wheeled racer, but in the 1960’s technology hadn’t yet been invented to keep the rider from doing a face plant every time he tried to slow down. So while the bike in question was an interesting art piece, that’s all it was.
Fast forward 40 years to 2001. Engineers had mastered the use of electronics to keep people upright while moving forwards or backwards on two parallel wheels, and the Segway personal transporter is unveiled. While undoubtedly cool, the resulting vehicles never really took off like the developers planned. The biggest challenges to its widespread adoption were cost and the fact that no jurisdiction seemed to know how to classify it. Was it a motor vehicle? A weird bicycle? Did you need a license to operate it and a permit to put it on the road? Should riders wear helmets? And the list goes on. So like most bureaucrats faced with tough decisions, they just made it illegal on public roadways and so the Segway was instead relegated to filling small niche markets like mall security, crowd control, and golf courses.
Now 10 years later, Honda has significantly raised the bar on the personal transporter concept. Still in prototype, the U3-X is the first mono-wheeled vehicle that I’m aware of that can not only go forwards and backwards, but also sideways and diagonally. And the technology used to do that is decidedly cool. Wheels within wheels. Which, I guess strictly speaking would no longer classify it as a mono-wheel. Doesn’t matter. Don’t care. This little gizmo is truly amazing.