Honda Wants You To Get Out Of Your Car

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Honda emphasizes personal mobility at the SAE World Congress.

New mobility devices help you get from point A to point B – short distances where you don’t need a car.

This may seem like a strange position for an automaker to take but Honda (which also includes the luxury brand Acura) is also focusing on personal mobility

I got a first hand –actually full body–look at this at the SAE World Congress held in April in Detroit. Honda showed off its latest vehicle, the all new Acura NSX, but it also had demos of its robot ASIMO and its walking assist technology.

Rolling out the UNI-CUB – a stool with wheels

Honda Uni-Cub

Sitting on the UNI-CUB

Most exciting was its seated mobility device UNI-CUB. Much like a Segway it moves by shifting your body. Very incrementally. To turn right you simply look right.

The UNI-CUB has been used in museums, where groups can glide quite though the galleries. It only works on flat terrain, though it can move seamlessly from tile or wood floor to carpeting. It’s also not recommended for outdoor use. The Honda Omni Traction Drive System lets you move in any direction – front, backwards, laterally or diagonally – imagine being able to play tennis is you had limited mobility.

The Walking Assist Device improves mobility

Personal Mobility

The Walking Assist Device helped me move quickly, even after running a half marathon

But the UNI-CUB isn’t really for people with disabilities. For that, Honda developed the Walking Assist Device. The device, worn over clothing, consists of a frame with battery-powered compact motors. It is designed to assist people who have reduced walking ability due to injury or illness. I tried this out the day after I ran a half marathon, and my legs were tight; it helped power me up AND down a full flight of stairs.

The UNI-CUB has a top speed of four miles per hour; with the Walking Assist Device, which has been in development at Honda for several years, you can go as fast as a regular walker, which is about the same (faster, of course, for a New Yorker). I expected to get electric shocks, but there was no current pumping into my body, just a gentle assist.

Hands-free applications in real world situations

Watch the video below, which shows how you move around on the UNI-CUB:

In another video that played on a loop at the SAE World Congress, a group of riders used notebooks since the UNI-CUB is hands-free. You can also text while “driving’ the device though I thought it would be particularly useful at a cocktail party – a movable feast perhaps? But then your balance would be suspect after a couple of drinks.

The UNI-CUB could also be useful for getting around large offices – or maybe even factory floors where cars are made? Its footprint is small – it’s basically a low stool with wheels, so it can be stored easily and takes up much less room than a SEGWAY or a bicycle.

Help for the bedridden or more disabled

ASIMO is envisioned as a personal assistant particularly for an elderly or disabled person. What does this have to do with movement? For one it can help a bed ridden person by answering the door. Its manual dexterity is so advanced that it can turn doorknobs, fill glasses open, pill bottles – almost taking the place of a nurse or home health aide.

ASIMO, Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, evokes the name Isaac Asimov and it does seem like something out of science fiction. ASIMO can climb stairs – how useful would that be for somebody in a multi-story house who ccan’t carry things up and down stairs? The robot was designed to look ‘friendly,’ with a non-threatening height of four feet and a screen that almost resembles a face.

ASIMO can perform so many tasks – it even recognizes faces – except drive your car. For that, you’ll need an autonomous driving vehicle.

Judy Antell, who is's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell