The Honda U3-X (on the left) uses technologies borrowed from Honda's ASIMO robot (right) to maintain balance and move freely in any direction on just one wheel
Honda claim they’ve reinvented the wheel with their new personal mobility device, the U3-X, which uses the world’s first drive system with 360-degree movement. Using technologies borrowed from the Honda ASIMO robot, the U3-X can freely move in any direction – on just one wheel!
While riding the U3-X, the rider can adjust speed and direction of the device (monowheel? appliance? vehicle? unicycle? motorcycle?), and move, turn or stop simply by shifting his upper bodyweight. To make this possible, Honda has drawn upon advanced technologies used in the humanoid robot ASIMO, for which human beings’ ability to maintain balance was studied extensively. (Ever wondered why you don’t keep toppling down on all four limbs, like various other animals…?)
Honda’s balance control technology enables ASIMO to stand, walk and run in a controlled manner. Developed further, this technology now lets the U3-X detect shifts in the rider’s bodyweight to adjust the direction and speed of the device. Based on the data it collects via its sensors, the U3-X is able to maintain an upright position and yet move smoothly and with human-like agility.
The Honda U3-X also uses technologies from Honda’s omni-directional driving wheel system (HOT Drive System) which enables movement in all directions, including right and left and diagonal, thanks to many small, motor-controlled wheels that are connected in-line to form one large-diameter wheel. By moving the large-diameter wheel, the device moves forward and backward, and by moving small-diameter wheels, the device moves side-to-side. Combining these movements means the device moves diagonally too.
The U3-X, which weighs less than 10 kilos, is powered by a lithium-ion battery. The experimental vehicle will be showcased at the Tokyo Motor Show in October this year. Of course, this is an experimental device made to study the dynamics of balance, but what’s exciting is the potential uses for this technology in motorcycles.
With electric propulsion systems and technologies like Honda’s omni-directional driving wheel system, who know what future motorcycles may look like, or how they might work. Self balancing motorcycles? Motorcycles that don’t need you to have Kenny Roberts’ skills to go sideways? Motorcycles that will simply refuse to topple over even if you happen to lose control?
We’re still in love with the RC30, RC45 and the NSR500, but the future, too, may not be all that dull after all…
The Honda U3-X in action...