Japan seems a bit like an electric vehicle playground and testing lab for the automakers over there. You’ve already got Honda and Nissan field testing micro electric cars in conjunction with partners for study of how they perform under various real world scenarios, and now Toyota is in on the act as well.
What they bring to the table for this story though is a little different of a beast, known as Winglet.
Described more as [PDF] a “personal transport assistance robot” versus an electric vehicle, the Winglet still gets around under power from a lithium-ion battery. Technical specifications on this thing aren’t mind shattering – 6 km/hr (3.7 MPH) cruising speed and a range of 10 km (6.2 miles) – but from how Toyota spells it out they aren’t meant to. It is more about offering something which promotes a low carbon society ideal and that could let you go those last couple miles from your mass transit stop to your apartment without tiring yourself out. Walking is better for you, to be sure, but this could have its advantages as well.
The Winglet, much like the Segway, moves in the direction you want it to go as you shift your body weight more that way. It has been something Toyota’s been tinkering with since August of 2008 and comes in three flavors, depending upon whether you want something practical or more “sporty.” All are lightweight, so you can carry them with you when you go up to your apartment.
The trial Toyota will be putting eight of these through goes until March of next year in the Japanese city of Tsukuba (Tsukuba) in Ibaraki Prefecture. They will be ridden in a special “Mobility Robot Experimental Zone,” which I assume your city doesn’t have, much like mine. That still sounds pretty cool though, huh? To date, in this zone, more than 7,000 km (4,350 miles) of testing have been logged already.
Results from this will be used “to verify the safety, functionality and convenience of the Winglet so it can be used on public sidewalks in the future.” Toyota eventually hopes to as well to “contribute to the development of Japan’s personal assistance robot industry and the realization of mobility-robot use on public thoroughfares.”