Toyota announced this week that they have began public testing of their Winglet personal transportation device at the Tsukuba Mobility Robot Experimental Zone in Japan. Part of Toyota's "Parter Robot" initiative, the Winglet aims to "[contribute] to the development of a society where mobility is safe, freely accessible, and fun," according to a statement from Toyota.
Toyota will test 8 Winglet units from now until April of 2016, with this year's tests focused on safety. "[Toyota Motor Corporation] and Tsukuba believe that the Winglet trials will be highly significant in the development of mobility-robot-using communities with low environmental impact," said Toyota.
The battery-powered Winglet features a range of roughly 2.5 miles and a top speed of about 3.7 miles per hour. The device can be fully recharged within 90 minutes, or reach 80% capacity within 1 hour. Much like the Segway, the Winglet uses internal sensors to automatically maintain stability; to move forward, backward or turn, the rider simply leans in the direction they wish to go. As seen in the video above, a clear plastic keycard is used to start operation.
The concept may sound futuristic, but the Winglet was originally announced by Toyota back in 2008, when the automaker unveiled 3 different-sized models. Today's "Winglet Long Type" variant appears to be the "L" model. Toyota has previously shown "M" (medium) and "S" (short) models as well.
Can the Winglet successfully segue to a new era in personal mobility, or is this just another Segway? Let us know what you think in the comments.