May 16, 2012
Chris Salamone

Honda Seeks “Harmonious” Mobility Device

Beginning in June 2012, Honda will start testing the company’s latest electric personal mobility device. UNI-CUB, a seated electric chair, stems from Honda’s originally famous ASIMO robot. But UNI-CUB is a whole different animal…er machine.

For starters, UNI-CUB is a balance controlled vehicle which relies on some fancy multi-directional hoodoo. Drivers can lean in any direction, while plopped down on UNI-CUB’s English-style saddle, and expect the wheels underneath to respond in an appropriately futuristic manner. Honda has pioneered a steering technology called Omni Traction Drive System which allows riders to travel forward, backward, side to side, and diagonally – instead of traditional forward/backward wheels. The system relies on rear wheels which move laterally to facilitate turning and front/rear wheel treads that are capable of different rotational speeds and directions.

Honda has been looking for another application of Omni Traction Drive since the idea was first announced in 2009. Apparently UNI-CUB’s potential for “harmony with people” was enough to justify a joint-venture test with Japan’s national Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

Flushing out the harmony idea a bit further, a recent press release by Honda Motor Co., Ltd. stated: “(Honda) today unveiled the new UNI-CUB personal mobility device, designed for harmony with people. Featuring a compact design and comfortable saddle, UNI-CUB offers the same freedom of movement in all directions that a person enjoys while walking.”

While the likelihood of UNI-CUB going viral is low, the idea nevertheless merits some discussion. Anyone who has gazed upon the socially commentative film Wall-E will say the same thing: a future where people sit all the time seems like a bad idea. But the beauty of Honda’s UNI-CUB is that mobility technology which includes omni-directional wheels could change everything about the movement and public perception of modern day cars.

In my humble estimation, nothing would be more fun than controlling a high-powered sports car via balance control technology. Forget paddle shifters, forget short throw manual transmissions, driving could become the ultimate interactive adrenaline rush – requiring physical movements at every launch, bend, and stop. We’ll have to wait a while on that adrenaline rush, though. UNI-CUB is only capable of 3.7 mph and travelling a maximum range of 3.7 miles.

In the meantime, if you can handle 3.5 minutes of the most tedious elevator music on earth, check out the video below.

Source : Honda