Fashion may have once been the most fickle industry, but these days, it seems that tech is fast taking its place. And the poster child for how the mighty have fallen lies in the ill-fated hoverboard, which has suffered a precipitous decline in reputation over the last several months. The latest episode in the ongoing death spiral is a full blown investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). According to a statement from the Commission, officials are “looking into dozens of fires involving hoverboards, which are also called smart boards or self-balancing boards.” And it’s really, really not looking good.
The problem with many of these spontaneously combusting wheeled devices has been linked to a faulty lithium ion battery, which is so unstable that they’re capable of exploding at any moment’s notice. A number of dangerous incidents have been reported, and hoverboards have been banned in a number of environments, including airplanes, college campuses, and even some city streets. As the Commission points out, many of the recent blazes “occurred indoors and could have resulted in serious injuries if not for the quick actions of consumers to extinguish the fire.” As a result, the organization notes, “This is a priority investigation and CPSC is devoting the staff time and resources necessary to find the root causes of the fires.”
Thus far, CPSC has been none too pleased with its findings. In a statement, Chairman Elliot Kaye urged “responsible large-volume online sellers in particular to stop selling these products until we have more certainty regarding their safety,” and also offered kudos to Amazon for offering refunds to customers who’ve purchased malfunctioning hoverboards. The investigation is currently ongoing, but even so, Kaye has provided consumers a few tips and tricks when dealing with the potentially dangerous products:
- Have a working fire extinguisher nearby while charging or using these boards in and around your home.
- Charge in an open area away from combustible materials.
- Gear up before riding, which means putting on a skateboard helmet, elbow and knee pads, and wrist guards.
- And finally, do not use a hoverboard on or near a road.
Safety first, friends — and it looks like that generally doesn’t include a hoverboard.