Electric Personal Transportation Devices


Science fiction mobility available today

When self-balancing electric personal transportation (PT) devices were introduced in 2001, they were enthusiastically heralded as the next big thing in personal transportation. While predictions of fundamentally changing human locomotion have fallen short, there continues to be a growing number of new PT devices that fill a niche no other type of vehicle can.

Today, the market is dominated by two types of machines, self-balancers -  like Segway and hoverboards – and adult-sized electric kick scooters, which are less complicated because they don't have the tech needed for self-balancing.

Solving the last mile dilemma

These vehicles offers a mode of transportation in between walking and riding a bike. They offer a heads-up  experience more like walking than the bent forward riding position of a bicycle. This slower moving, upright positioning makes it easier to interact with pedestrians and the surrounding environment while at the same time offering powered movement that is faster than a pedestrian can walk. 

Although the regulations pertaining to these vehicles can be a bit convoluted, in most U.S. jurisdictions they can be used anywhere pedestrians are allowed including walking paths and sidewalks. The extra inches of height the standing position gives riders allows them to have an unobstructed view of their surroundings. Police and private security companies have embraced these vehicles because they have found the riding position allows the officers to interact easily with the community.

These transporters make great short distance urban mobility vehicles and can be a last mile transportation solution. Newer Segways have removable handles that make transporting them easier. Electric kick scooters and hoverboards are lighter weight and easily transportable. Going several blocks or even several miles to class or the office is an easy, no sweat proposition. Whether outside or inside, being electric and nearly silent makes moving around on them amongst foot traffic a breeze. 

Gliding vs Walking

These devices are definitely not perfect for every situation. They are slower than road traffic and need to be used on sidewalks and foot paths. 

The self-balancing PT devices also have a bit of a learning curve. Leaning forward, backward and left or right to guide movement is like nothing else. Thanks to gyroscopes and accelerometers, the machine does all the balancing for you, even when stopped. There are no brakes or shifting to worry about, so after a few minutes of practice, it quickly becomes a get-on-and-go proposition. The kick scooters can be easier if you already know how to balance and ride a bike. Put one foot on, push with the other, hit the throttle and go.

Self-balancers are not considered motor vehicles under federal law, but most states and local jurisdictions have passed legislation that pertain specifically to Segways. Electric kick scooters can fall into this same gray area. Some of these laws regulate where the devices can be ridden, the age of the riders and some even require registration and insurance. It's important to understand the laws in the area where you plan to use the transporter. 

These devices are a fun personal mobility solution that should appeal to anyone who is interested in electric and eco-friendly transportation and are looking to tackle that last mile commute or are looking for a slow-speed recreational vehicle to enjoy around the neighborhood.


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