(Almost) Better Than Walking: Honda's New Uni-Cub Mobility Machine

The fact that Honda's newest vehicle has the word "Cub" in its name has a tinge of irony: the vehicle has two wheels, but it's not a motorcycle. It's called the Uni-Cub, and it's an electric personal mobility device designed to relieve the stresses of walking.

Honda's no stranger to these sorts of devices, which is to say electric-powered devices that are designed to be a step above walking. In 2008, the company unveiled what it called an Experimental Walking Assist Device, which used electric motors to physically move the user's legs forward or up and down. In 2009 Honda created the U3-X, which stopped moving a user's legs and instead let them straddle a thigh-high motorized pod with one large wheel.

The Honda Uni-Cub, in turn, is an advanced version of the U3-X. It's equipped with the same Honda Omni Traction Drive System, which allows the pod to move in any direction and not just forward or backward. It does this by using three types of wheels. It has one large wheel, which is pointed so the pod can move forward or backward, but that large wheel is comprised of many small wheels/tires, which are arranged in a horizontal fashion. Spin the small wheels and you can move left/right; spin both the large and small wheels, and you'll move diagonally. The Uni-Cub goes a step further than the U3-X by adding a one-piece rear-wheel, which turns to allow the pod to rotate or turn better (and, we surmise, adds a bit of additional stability for larger users).

Once a user sits atop the height-adjustable saddle and puts his/her feet on the foldable footrests, all he/she must do to move is lean. Like the Segway before it, the Uni-Cub is self-balancing and moves based on where the driver puts his/her weight.

The Honda Uni-Cub is designed to let users sit and move at the same height as their walking counterparts, so Honda says it could easily be used in offices and other cramped situations. And the Uni-Cub would only likely be useful in smaller environments: it has a lithium-ion battery that allows it to go up to 3.75 miles at up to 3.75 miles an hour. In other words: a 50cc motorcycle it isn't.

Source: Honda

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