If the sight of an incline causes you to break into a cold sweat whenever you’re out strolling the streets, then a four-wheeled contraption called the WalkCar could be just what you need.
Designed by Tokyo-based engineering team Cocoa Motors, the WalkCar looks at first glance like an upturned iPad with wheels. But it’s not. It is, as its name almost suggests, a portable transporter ideal for getting around town with very little effort. Actually, with no effort at all.
Slender and light (about 6.6 pounds), made from aluminum, and powered by a Lithium-ion battery (really, it’s not an iPad), the WalkCar can reach speeds of up to 6.2 mph (10 km/h) and tootle along for up to 7.4 miles (12 km) after a three-hour charge.
Demonstrating the WalkCar to Reuters recently, Cocoa Motors team member Kuniako Saito showed just how easy it is to use. Stand on it to go, get off to stop. To steer it, simply shift your weight around like you would on a skateboard. It looks impressive in the video, and is able to handle fairly steep inclines at speed, even while pushing other weights such as trolleys with packages. However, those small wheels leave us wondering how well it’d handle cracks in the sidewalk, or stones and the like.
Saito says Cocoa Motors’ creation is an improvement on alternatives like the Segway and Toyota’s Winglet because it’s small enough to pop into a bag when your journey’s done. Something like the IO Hawk self-balancing board, already on the market, could be considered as more of a competitor, but even that’s not as portable as this Japan-made transporter.
In fact, considering the WalkCar’s diminutive size, the device could potentially be of interest to commuters in Japan’s major cities, where many people cycle from their home to the train station, and then walk from the station to the office. Bicycles aren’t allowed on trains in Japan (unless you’re prepared to go through the hassle of removing the wheels and bagging it up), so WalkCar could be an ideal way for covering those short distances at speed if your legs aren’t up to the job.
Of course, with just-standing-there replacing the calorie-burning act of putting one foot in front of the other, enthusiastic users of WalkCar might notice their pants getting a little tight before too long. And how about distracted riding – could that become an issue? Well, we don’t have to wait long to find out as the machine will be up for pre-order from this fall for 100,000 yen (about $800), with shipping starting by spring 2016.