Selling a personal transportation device in the post-Segway world is a risky business proposition, but that hasn't stopped entrepreneurs from trying to automate the process of walking.
Segway's two-wheeled self-balancing scooter never sparked the revolution that inventor Dean Kamen predicted. And momentum for the category certainly wasn't bolstered when, in 2010, the millionaire owner of Segway's parent company died accidentally plunging off a cliff while riding a Segway.
Now, several years later, a new generation of innovators are hoping to bring the personal mobility market to the mainstream. As research firm CB Insights reports, several tech companies are developing innovative products for a future in which rising populations in urban areas will make cars less practical.
Here are three startups trying to become market leaders in personal transportation.
- Ninebot: Founded in 2012, Beijing-based robotics company Ninebot makes a one-wheeled electric unicycle called the Ninebot One that self-balances so standing inlineimageriders don't have to hold onto handlebars. The battery-powered product can go about six miles on a full charge and has a maximum speed of roughly 13 miles per hour. In April, Ninebot raised $80 million from investors including Sequoia Capital and smartphone maker Xiaomi, and acquired Segway, which had previously accused the company of patent infringement. Price: $950.
- Ryno Motors: Portland, Oregon-based Ryno Motors makes an "urban personal transportation device" that looks like one half of a motorcycle. The one-wheeled electric scooter accelerates and deaccelerates when the seated rider leans forward and backward, and has a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour. Co-founders Chris Hoffman and Tony Ozrelic have gone through three redesigns since Hoffman first came up with the idea for the product in 2008. Ryno has raised $1.3 million in investment capital and is currently accepting pre-orders, with expected delivery in late 2015. Price: $5,295.
- Whill: Founded in 2012, San Francisco-based Whill makes a four-wheeled mobility device designed for wheelchair users who want the ability to ride over grass, inlineimagegravel, pebbles and snow. Created by former Toyota and Nissan automobile engineers, the Whill Model A can travel up to 5.5 miles per hour and clear three inch curbs and thresholds. Riders use an app to adjust speed and acceleration preferences, and can select either "comfort mode" or "active mode." Whill has raised $1.7 million from investors including Vegas Tech Fund, 500 Startups, and Mitsubishi Bank. Price: $9,500.