This story belongs to CES 2020, our total protection of the display room flooring and the most popular brand-new tech gizmos around.
If like me you have actually long cursed the reality that you were born in the incorrect century and social class to benefit from that remarkable mode of individual transport, the sedan chair, then I have fantastic news for you.
At CES in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Segway performed a grand unveiling of its S-Pod — a self-balancing maneuverable egg seat, developed as an indoor-outdoor individual transport option. It’s a sedan chair for the 21st century and when I attempted it out ahead of launch it made me seem like a modern-day duchess.
On the CES program flooring, I was ushered into a pen consisting of an oval track and handed a helmet and a waiver kind to sign. Before I moved into the seat I was informed on the controls: an easy on-off switch and a joystick to manage both speed and instructions of travel. The S-Pod can likewise be managed from another location through a tablet that moves into its arm, however I simply utilized it to change the state of mind lighting in the egg pod, changing it to a pink and blue-green color.
I stepped onto the low lip and made myself comfortable in the roomy chair, which nestles you in a crescent-moon shell. If I had this much seat width and individual area on a plane, I’d be delighted.
I pressed the on button and felt a rumble inside the pod, almost like starting a car with a quiet engine. Then the seat dipped backwards disconcertingly. As it turned out, the S-Pod’s seat tilts forward slightly to allow for easy entry. Then it rights itself once you’re ready to hit the road, which I did with gusto.
It’s possible to travel up to 24 miles per hour in an S-Pod, but Segway restricted the speed on the model I was using. I gingerly tried to make a slow turn around the track. But I quickly discovered it was easier to go directly forward and then pause to spin slightly when taking corners, rather than attempting a nice smooth arc.
It took a moment to master, but I quickly got the hang of steering, finding it simple and intuitive. This came as a relief as well as a surprise: My history with other personal modes of transportation can’t exactly be described as a success.
Scooters can go swivel
The S-Pod can be viewed as part of the revolution in personal urban mobility as we move towards smart, connected cities where our streets aren’t so clogged with traditional motor vehicles. So far this has largely been dominated by bicycle schemes and scooter companies such as Lime and Bird.
But bikes and scooters aren’t for everyone. For people with limited mobility or physical ailments, they may not be appropriate. For others (heel wearers, clumsy people), they just may not seem desirable.
When I tested scooters out on Europe’s cobbled streets last summer, I learned that I’m about as good at scooting as I am at riding a bike — that is to say, I’m a wobbly liability. Not only did traversing the cobbles nearly rattle my brains right out of my skull, but at one point I almost collided with a cyclist. I resolved to throw in the towel: I came to the conclusion that scooters are bad for Europe and bad for me.
Conversely, I discovered I’m quite adept at handling an S-Pod, which I found comfy, easy to control and, crucially, hard to crash. Maybe there weren’t four men with poles slung over their shoulders carrying me, but the S-Pod gives off the same crowd-parting, exhibitionist energy as the sedan chairs of yore. And if people didn’t get out of my way I could always toot the little horn at them.
Call it leaning into the lazy if you must, but I’m sold on the concept of the S-Pod. I’m also keen to see what other alternative personal mobility options will be available to people like me who don’t feel confident on scooters or bikes in the future.