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Honda unveils U3-X 'personal mobility' device

Honda's new
Honda's new "personal mobility" device
Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito poses for photographers as he demonstrates Honda's new "personal mobility" device at a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009

Honda's new "personal mobility" device looks like a unicycle, but all you need to do to zip around on it - sideways as well as forward and back - is lean your weight into the direction you want to go.

The U3-X - available for a test-run for reporters in Tokyo today - was designed to be small, safe and unobtrusive enough to mingle with pedestrians, according to Honda Motor Co.

The single wheel on the U3-X - U stands for "unicycle" and "universal" - is made up of many tiny motor-controlled wheels, packed inside the bigger wheel, allowing the device to swerve in any direction.

It stands upright on its own. Sit on it as though it's a stool, and shift your weight to drive. The thing maintains its own balance as it scoots along at a speed of up to 3.7 miles per hour.

Honda President Takanobu Ito said the machine was still "a proposal," and the company has no sales plans, pricing or firm ideas on where or how it will be used.

Honda declined to give details of the U3-X's technology, but said it weighs less than 10 kilograms, runs on a full charge for an hour, and has a lithium-ion battery.

Japan is one of the most rapidly ageing societies in the world, and concerns are growing about helping the elderly get around.

"Honda engineers are always thinking about people's dreams and wishes about mobility. We will continue to work hard to be a leader in that area," Mr Ito said.

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