Urban Transport

8 forward-thinking vehicles to propel us into 2016

8 forward-thinking vehicles to...
We look at some of the vehicles that could play a role in getting people around in the future
We look at some of the vehicles that could play a role in getting people around in the future
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Though a market-ready tricopter is still a ways off, the team behind Flike is buoyed by its early success and is now working towards a second prototype
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Though a market-ready tricopter is still a ways off, the team behind Flike is buoyed by its early success and is now working towards a second prototype
The Flike tricopter is designed to allow 15 to 20 minutes of hover flight or 30 to 40 minutes of cruise flight
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The Flike tricopter is designed to allow 15 to 20 minutes of hover flight or 30 to 40 minutes of cruise flight
Though a market-ready tricopter is still a ways off, the team behind Flike is buoyed by its early success and is now working towards a second prototype
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Though a market-ready tricopter is still a ways off, the team behind Flike is buoyed by its early success and is now working towards a second prototype
What do you build a 55-horsepower motorcycle and a small jet ski into the same vehicle? Probably a whole lot of fun
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What do you build a 55-horsepower motorcycle and a small jet ski into the same vehicle? Probably a whole lot of fun
The Biski can bound across the water at up to 37 mph (60 km/h)
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The Biski can bound across the water at up to 37 mph (60 km/h)
The Biski can hit speeds of 80 mph ( (129 km/h) on land
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The Biski can hit speeds of 80 mph ( (129 km/h) on land
Brimming with sensors and features like customizable throttle control and regenerative braking, the electric Gogoro Smartscooter is impressive in itself
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Brimming with sensors and features like customizable throttle control and regenerative braking, the electric Gogoro Smartscooter is impressive in itself
The Gogoro scooter cannot be charged via a wall outlet, rather it stays on the move through a network of battery exchange kiosks placed strategically around urban centers
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The Gogoro scooter cannot be charged via a wall outlet, rather it stays on the move through a network of battery exchange kiosks placed strategically around urban centers
The Gogoro scooter cannot be charged via a wall outlet, rather it stays on the move through a network of battery exchange kiosks placed strategically around urban centers
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The Gogoro scooter cannot be charged via a wall outlet, rather it stays on the move through a network of battery exchange kiosks placed strategically around urban centers
The INU scooter counts on a smartphone-controlled folding system that packs the vehicle down into a transport friendly, golf buggy-like form in just 4.5 seconds
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The INU scooter counts on a smartphone-controlled folding system that packs the vehicle down into a transport friendly, golf buggy-like form in just 4.5 seconds
The INU's 40 km (25 mi) range, 25 km/h 15.5 mph top speed and polished, user-friendly design make for a nicely packaged commuting option
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The INU's 40 km (25 mi) range, 25 km/h 15.5 mph top speed and polished, user-friendly design make for a nicely packaged commuting option
The INU scooter counts on a smartphone-controlled folding system that packs the vehicle down into a transport friendly, golf buggy-like form in just 4.5 seconds
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The INU scooter counts on a smartphone-controlled folding system that packs the vehicle down into a transport friendly, golf buggy-like form in just 4.5 seconds
Mayman says he has had multi-million dollar offers for the jetpack
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Mayman says he has had multi-million dollar offers for the jetpack
Mayman says he has had multi-million dollar offers for the jetpack
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Mayman says he has had multi-million dollar offers for the jetpack
Our collective pursuit of personal, backpack-powered flight received a nice little nudge along in November, when aviator David Mayman circled the Statue of Liberty in his JB-9 jetpack
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Our collective pursuit of personal, backpack-powered flight received a nice little nudge along in November, when aviator David Mayman circled the Statue of Liberty in his JB-9 jetpack
The Klepper Backyak can be hoisted over the shoulder when en-route to a range of adventurous activities and converted into all of a kayak, sailboat, snow sled and floating sun deck when you reach your destination
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The Klepper Backyak can be hoisted over the shoulder when en-route to a range of adventurous activities and converted into all of a kayak, sailboat, snow sled and floating sun deck when you reach your destination
The Klepper Backyak can be hoisted over the shoulder when en-route to a range of adventurous activities and converted into all of a kayak, sailboat, snow sled and floating sun deck when you reach your destination
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The Klepper Backyak can be hoisted over the shoulder when en-route to a range of adventurous activities and converted into all of a kayak, sailboat, snow sled and floating sun deck when you reach your destination
The Klepper Backyak can be hoisted over the shoulder when en-route to a range of adventurous activities and converted into all of a kayak, sailboat, snow sled and floating sun deck when you reach your destination
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The Klepper Backyak can be hoisted over the shoulder when en-route to a range of adventurous activities and converted into all of a kayak, sailboat, snow sled and floating sun deck when you reach your destination
Imagine an aluminum pad not much larger than your laptop that can be easily lugged around in your bag, and then when you encounter a piece of smooth concrete you can whip it out and be zipped along at up to 10 km/h (6.2 mph)
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Imagine an aluminum pad not much larger than your laptop that can be easily lugged around in your bag, and then when you encounter a piece of smooth concrete you can whip it out and be zipped along at up to 10 km/h (6.2 mph)
A featherlight electric skateboard that weighs no more than an unpowered one for easy portability might not be possible yet, but the Stary is the closest thing you'll get
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A featherlight electric skateboard that weighs no more than an unpowered one for easy portability might not be possible yet, but the Stary is the closest thing you'll get
A featherlight electric skateboard that weighs no more than an unpowered one for easy portability might not be possible yet, but the Stary is the closest thing you'll get
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A featherlight electric skateboard that weighs no more than an unpowered one for easy portability might not be possible yet, but the Stary is the closest thing you'll get
Those taking to the great outdoors are of course not safe from the clutches of transformative vehicle design either
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Those taking to the great outdoors are of course not safe from the clutches of transformative vehicle design either
Stary weighs just 8.6 lb (3.9 kg), goes 10 mi (16 km) on each charge and can hit speeds of 18.6 mph (30 km/h).
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Stary weighs just 8.6 lb (3.9 kg), goes 10 mi (16 km) on each charge and can hit speeds of 18.6 mph (30 km/h).
We look at some of the vehicles that could play a role in getting people around in the future
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We look at some of the vehicles that could play a role in getting people around in the future
View gallery - 24 images

The continued minituarization of electronics, advances in materials technology, a growing emphasis on clean, sustainable modes of transport and imaginative thinkers with out-of-the-box ideas have converged to give us some truly audacious vehicle designs over the past 12 months. Some are certainly more practical than others, but from personal tricopters to amphibious motorcycles this new breed of personal mobility solutions offers a tantalizing glimpse into how we might be getting from A to B in the future. As we head into a new year with new possibilities, let's take a look at some that could have a role to play in shaping the future of transport.

The WalkCar electric rolling pad

Imagine an aluminum pad not much larger than your laptop that can be easily lugged around in your bag, and then when you encounter a piece of smooth concrete you can whip it out and be zipped along at up to 10 km/h (6.2 mph)
Imagine an aluminum pad not much larger than your laptop that can be easily lugged around in your bag, and then when you encounter a piece of smooth concrete you can whip it out and be zipped along at up to 10 km/h (6.2 mph)

Imagine an aluminum pad not much larger than your laptop that can be easily lugged around in your bag, and then when you encounter a stretch of smooth concrete you can whip it out and be zipped along at up to 10 km/h (6.2 mph). Granted that's not a great deal faster than walking speed, but with a built-in battery, small footprint and four tiny wheels, the ultra-portable WalkCar from Japan's Cocoa Motors shows what might be achieved with a less-is-more approach.

The world's lightest electric skateboard

Stary weighs just 8.6 lb (3.9 kg), goes 10 mi (16 km) on each charge and can hit speeds of 18.6 mph (30 km/h).
Stary weighs just 8.6 lb (3.9 kg), goes 10 mi (16 km) on each charge and can hit speeds of 18.6 mph (30 km/h).

Electric skateboards came thick and fast in 2015. While different manufacturers have focused on different characteristics, be it power, all-terrain ability or range, one of the more important aspects is undeniably weight. A featherlight electric skateboard that weighs no more than an unpowered one might not be possible yet, but the Stary is the closest thing you'll get at the moment. It weighs just 3.9 kg (8.6 lb), goes 16 km (10 mi) on each charge and can hit speeds of 30 km/h (18.6 mph).

The Gogoro battery-swapping Smartscooter

The Gogoro scooter cannot be charged via a wall outlet, rather it stays on the move through a network of battery exchange kiosks placed strategically around urban centers
The Gogoro scooter cannot be charged via a wall outlet, rather it stays on the move through a network of battery exchange kiosks placed strategically around urban centers

Brimming with 30 sensors and accompanied by a smartphone app where users can customize things like throttle control and regenerative braking, the electric Gogoro Smartscooter is impressive in itself. But there's some big-picture thinking behind this particular urban vehicle. It cannot be charged via a wall outlet, rather it stays on the move through a network of battery exchange kiosks placed strategically around urban centers. In the year since debuting at CES in January, Gogoro has been successfully been trialed in Taiwan and then expanded into Europe. One to watch.

The auto-folding INU electric scooter

The INU scooter counts on a smartphone-controlled folding system that packs the vehicle down into a transport friendly, golf buggy-like form in just 4.5 seconds
The INU scooter counts on a smartphone-controlled folding system that packs the vehicle down into a transport friendly, golf buggy-like form in just 4.5 seconds

Another approach to electrical two-wheelers, the INU scooter counts on a smartphone-controlled folding system that packs the vehicle down into a transport-friendly, golf buggy-like form in just 4.5 seconds. We spied this funky little number at the Frankfurt Motor Show in October and though it is far from the only foldable scooter doing the rounds, its 40 km (25 mi) range, 25 km/h (15.5 mph) top speed and polished, user-friendly design make for a tastefully packaged commuting option.

All kinds of adventure squeezed into a single backpack

Those taking to the great outdoors are of course not safe from the clutches of transformative vehicle design either
Those taking to the great outdoors are of course not safe from the clutches of transformative vehicle design either

Those taking to the great outdoors are not safe from the clutches of transformative vehicle design either. The Klepper Backyak can be hoisted over the shoulder when en route to a range of adventurous activities and be converted into a kayak, sailboat, snow sled or floating sun deck when you reach your destination. Now that's versatility.

A motorcycle you can ride straight into a lake and out again

The Biski can bound across the water at up to 37 mph (60 km/h)
The Biski can bound across the water at up to 37 mph (60 km/h)

What do you get when you combine a 55-horsepower motorcycle and a small jet ski in the one machine? Probably a whole lot of fun. The Biski from serial amphibious vehicle maker Alan Gibbs can hit speeds of 129 km/h (80 mph) on land and then when you roll up to shore, switch to jet ski mode in around five seconds to bound across the water at up to 60 km/h (37 mph).

A jetpack you could buy and fly now (well, technically)

Mayman says he has had multi-million dollar offers for the jetpack
Mayman says he has had multi-million dollar offers for the jetpack

Our collective pursuit of personal, backpack-powered flight received a nice little nudge in November, when aviator David Mayman circled the Statue of Liberty in his JB-9 jetpack. It burns through fuel at around a gallon (3.8 L) a minute to offer a flight time of over 10 minutes, and though Mayman says he has had multi-million dollar offers for the jetpack and could technically start selling a modified version in the ultralight category tomorrow, he feels a certain responsibility about where it might take overenthusiastic pilots.

"I'd wanna feel like we have an infrastructure to train them," Mayman told us last month. "We could technically just send them the unit in a box and say 'good luck' but it's not necessarily going to end well if you're doing 200 km/h (124 mph), 5 feet (1.5 m) off the ground, you know? It could be a monster. But we're working on it. We'll get there."

So the wait continues, but it appears there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

A flying bicycle

The Flike tricopter is designed to allow 15 to 20 minutes of hover flight or 30 to 40 minutes of cruise flight
The Flike tricopter is designed to allow 15 to 20 minutes of hover flight or 30 to 40 minutes of cruise flight

Just like the maker of the JB-9, the a team of Hungarian researchers are looking to the skies to usher in a new form of transport. Its Flike tricopter is designed to allow 15 to 20 minutes of hover flight or 30 to 40 minutes of cruise flight. In manned testing back in May, the team took an important step forward demonstrating the vehicle's ability to hover, perform maneuvers and compensate for wind. Though a market-ready tricopter is still a ways off, the team is buoyed by its early success and is now working towards a second prototype that will feature similar capabilities to that of its planned commercial model.

Where to from here?

So there you have it, a look at some of the more eye-catching developments in transport to cross our desks over the past year. Some can be ordered now, some may be available soon and some may just continue to tease us (we're looking at you, jetpack). But all of these demonstrate an imaginative approach to moving people around and with that, contribute to progress in their own way. What will that mean for 2016? Perhaps an affordable, functioning hoverboard? A working Hyperloop? Let us know your thoughts on the future of urban transport in the comments below.

View gallery - 24 images
10 comments
Mzungu_Mkubwa
Combine the JB9 (VTOL) with Yves Rossy's rig for horizontal/forward flight and you're lookin' at my next commuter vehicle!
(That is, if I had any cahones at all...)
Stephen N Russell
Love jetpack, amphib bike & Smartscooter best. Awesome.
jerryd
The kayak and 2 E scooters are the only ones that are worth anything. Maybe the MC Jetski. For air commuting a coaxial 2 rotor set E powered driven like a gyrocopter but able hover, land vertically with present batteries can get about 40miles and 70milesor so in 4 yrs. Small Multi rotors are not eff, larger ones are and ones above you are much safer than beside, under you. The only reason for 2 is they need less diameter and need to counter balance each other so it can be simple, stable naturally.
Bruce H. Anderson
If the JB-9 had the props higher and the seat lower it seems like it would be a whole lot easier to control, and more comfortable to ride.
the.other.will
Cocoa Motors needs to get the WalkCar to market while the "hover" boards are still unreliable. I think the Flike is more practical than a jetpack but I expect a production model will be a quadrotor where the pilot sits below the rotors.
Wolf0579
Oh for a composite of the flike/JB9/Rossy rig. My kind of strap-on airplane.
Chuck Anziulewicz
"THE HOVERBOARD: Because walking just isn't cool enough."
BenjaminOtto
Interchangeable battery make so much sense and therefore it will never happen.
BullWhacker
Jet pack really cool. The JB-9? Scares the heck out of me;those props and if you have an accident and you fall into them?
spaceman
the future is all about the internet of things and how our devices will be connected and smart. Only the grogoro scooter is a real example...and you missed one called the solar electric "e-floater" from www.floatility.com