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Toyota Winglet ‘mobility assistance robot’ takes to the streets

The Toyota Winglet ‘mobility assistance robot’ is coming to a city near you. If you live near a city called Tsukaba, Japan, that is.

The Winglet will be tested in the city to ‘assess its safety and practicality for moving among pedestrians’. In other words, it could become a more regular sight if it avoids mowing people down.

The trial will be broken up into two main sections. From now until 2014, safety will be monitored. After that, ‘functionality, convenience and prospective public demand’ will come under scrutiny until March 2016, when the trial comes to a close.

80 local authority workers and employees of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology will get to zoom around like Gob Bluth from Arrested Development in a part of Tsukaba that has been testing mobility robots since 2011.

The two-wheeled machine uses the same self-balancing gyroscopic system as a Segway. However, while the Segway can cruise at up to 12.5mph the smaller, lighter Winglet does a more pedestrian 3.5mph.

Although considerably slower, the Winglet can be folded up and carried; it weighs 22lbs (just under 10kg) while the Segway clocks in at a hefty 105lbs.

Three models are available – S, M and L, ranging in height from 18 inches to 3 feet 8 inches. The S model does away with the handlebar and tips the scales at a modest 9.9kg. The slightly taller and heavier M is ideal for kids thanks to its low handlebar height, while the big daddy L model is the most Segway-esque of the bunch.

The Winglet will manage six miles when its lithium-ion battery is fully juiced up and a full recharge takes about 60 minutes. An 80 per cent charge can be achieved in 15 minutes.

While slower than a bicycle and really not much faster than walking, the indoor-capable Winglet also happens to be emission-free so laziness doesn’t have to affect the planet ─ unless you count the process of manufacturing it and recharging the thing with electricity sourced from carbon-based fuels.

The Winglet went into very limited production after its announcement in August of 2008, priced at US$3,500. We’re guessing it may still be around that price if you look hard enough.


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