Cars may be getting smarter but the basic design and function isn’t changing much: for example, the BMW i3 might have a whizzy electric engine, but Henry Ford would still recognise it as a car. They might be soon be able to drive themselves but a car will still fundamentally look like a car.
You can’t say the same about an electric unicycle, a flying bike or a skateboard with square wheels, though – and those are the kind of vehicles some inventors hope we’ll adopt en masse.
Is the flying car finally here? Is somebody Kickstarting the future of transport? Let’s find out.
1. Ryno Micro-Cycle
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaFN4lldZRk
The Ryno is “sleek and simple, while evoking a deep-seated yearning for a more progressive future,” the manufacturer says. It’s half a motorbike, we say.
It’s an odd-looking thing, a Segway crossed with a motorcycle, and if you’ve got $5,295 (about UK£3186, AU$5810) you can whizz around at up to 10mph while carrying up to 260lbs of cargo (including you). The Ryno is running late, but the makers promise it’ll go on limited sale this spring.
2. FlyKly Smart Wheel
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maOEx3joUFs
The Kickstarter-funded FlyKly adds an ultra-thin electric motor and intelligent electronics to a normal bike wheel, helping you accelerate more quickly and get up hills.
You can even remotely lock it and track it if your bike gets nicked. FlyKly is currently accepting pre-orders for delivery in June but it will cost you $590 (about UK£355, AU$648).
3. Shark Wheel
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGLDceEPPRo
There’s thinking outside the box, and then there’s thinking so far outside the box that you can’t remember where you left it or what the box looked like. We think the Shark Wheel falls into the latter category, because it’s kicking back against the tyranny of circular wheels.
It turns out that square-looking wheels (the looking bit is key, because the wheels aren’t really square) can grip better in the wet, handle soft surfaces with aplomb and slide more easily too.
Shark Wheels for skateboards began shipping earlier this year, but the inventors reckon their design could scale to bigger vehicles – including military ones.
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrTu6YyjVuE
Yes, it does look rather like somebody’s nailed an old car tyre to a girder, but the OneWheel is the closest thing we’ve got to Back to the Future hoverboards. Its combination of a brushless hub motor, inertia sensors and clever software means it powers and balances itself.
The first bunch of Kickstarter orders have sold out and the makers are currently accepting pre-orders for the second production run.
5. Organic Transit Elf
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSXt1KhPG7w
If you’ve got five thousand dollars going spare, live somewhere sunny or just like pedalling, the Elf may well be for you.
It’s a $4,995 (about UK£3005, AU$5488) solar powered (and socket-rechargeable) tricycle capable of 30mph, 1,800mpg and a range of just over 14 miles. That’s in California, though: we suspect the British weather and landscape would kill the battery much more quickly.
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKkgPo7Mq_4
Inventist, aka Shane Chen, has a track record when it comes to personal mobility. He invented the Solowheel electric wheel, the Hydroglider electric surfboard and most recently, the Hovertrax.
The Hovertrax is like a Segway boiled down to the bare essentials: two balancing wheels you control with your feet. Yours for only $695 (about UK£418, AU$763) via Kickstarter.
7. Ecoboomer iGo
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRMqZosYC7A
Our choice of vehicle says a great deal about us, and choosing an iGo says “hey! I’m driving a chemical toilet!” It’s an absolutely horrible-looking thing, and that’s a real shame because it’s rather clever.
The $1,600 (about UK$963, AU$1757) self-balancing vehicle is good for 19 miles at up to 13mph with zero emissions. The firm promises more new products in the coming weeks, but its website is back under construction and its online shop is currently down.
8. Honda U3-X Easy Rider
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDSqjvBIpWg
Honda isn’t messing around here: the U3-X Easy Rider comes from the same place as its robots, which Honda hopes can address some of the issues inherent in a rapidly ageing population.
The 2009 prototype was a ‘proposal’, with Honda president Takanobu Ito saying: “I might really use it if my legs grow weaker.” The Easy Rider isn’t going to become a shipping product any time soon, but it’s likely to inform future personal mobility devices such as self-powered wheelchairs.
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJMQQg_Qmf0
We’ve been promised flying cars for decades and B finally delivers on that promise. There’s only one catch: it’s too small for humans, and by “too small” we mean that it’d be a bit of a squeeze for an Action Man figure.
The £320 (about US$532, AU$584) kit is a remote-controlled hybrid car-copter (the rotors are in the wheels) that’s as happy in the air as it is on the ground, and it plays a starring role in the forthcoming Expendables 3 movie.
It’s a fantastic looking thing, but for transport it’ll either have to get a whole lot bigger or we humans will have to get a whole lot smaller. B’s creator promises the former and is using the RC models to help fund future development.
10. Jan Tleskac’s Flying Bike
YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtylFugOT_4
Ever wished your bike had six whopping great propellers on it? No, us neither, but Czech firms Duratec, Technodat and Evektor have joined forces to create just that.
It’s purely a prototype for now, which is reassuring. Watching the decidedly wobbly pilot in the video demo makes us glad that nobody we know is likely to decapitate us by accident during an afternoon bike ride.
- Learn more about tech upgrades in traditional transport