If like me you've long cursed the fact that you were born in the wrong century and social class to take advantage of that glorious mode of personal transportation, the sedan chair, then I have great news for you.
Atin Las Vegas on Tuesday, Segway conducted a grand unveiling of its , designed as an indoor-outdoor personal transportation solution. It's a sedan chair for the 21st century and when I tried it out ahead of launch it made me feel like a modern-day duchess.
On the CES show floor, I was ushered into a pen containing an oval track and handed a helmet and a waiver form to sign. Before I slid into the seat I was briefed on the controls: a simple on-off switch and a joystick to control both velocity and direction of travel. The S-Pod can also be controlled remotely via a tablet that slides into its arm, but I just used it to adjust the mood lighting in the egg pod, switching it to a pink and turquoise hue.
I stepped onto the low lip and made myself comfy in the spacious chair, which cradles you in a crescent-moon shell. If I had this much seat width and personal space on an airplane, I'd be thrilled.
I pressed the on button and felt a rumble inside the pod, almost like starting a car with a quiet engine. Then the seat dipped backwards disconcertingly. As it turned out, the S-Pod's seat tilts forward slightly to allow for easy entry. Then it rights itself once you're ready to hit the road, which I did with gusto.
It's possible to travel up to 24 miles per hour in an S-Pod, but Segway restricted the speed on the model I was using. I gingerly tried to make a slow turn around the track. But I quickly discovered it was easier to go directly forward and then pause to spin slightly when taking corners, rather than attempting a nice smooth arc.
It took a moment to master, but I quickly got the hang of steering, finding it simple and intuitive. This came as a relief as well as a surprise: My history with other personal modes of transportation can't exactly be described as a success.
Scooters can go swivel
The S-Pod can be viewed as part of the revolution in personal urban mobility as we move towards smart, connected cities where our streets aren't so clogged with traditional motor vehicles. So far this has largely been dominated by bicycle schemes and scooter companies such asand .
But bikes and scooters aren't for everyone. For people with limited mobility or physical ailments, they may not be appropriate. For others (heel wearers, clumsy people), they just may not seem desirable.
When I, I learned that I'm about as good at scooting as I am at riding a bike -- that is to say, I'm a wobbly liability. Not only did traversing the cobbles nearly rattle my brains right out of my skull, but at one point I almost collided with a cyclist. I resolved to throw in the towel: I came to the conclusion that scooters are bad for Europe and bad for me.
Conversely, I discovered I'm quite adept at handling an S-Pod, which I found comfy, easy to control and, crucially, hard to crash. Maybe there weren't four men with poles slung over their shoulders carrying me, but the S-Pod gives off the same crowd-parting, exhibitionist energy as the sedan chairs of yore. And if people didn't get out of my way I could always toot the little horn at them.
Call it leaning into the lazy if you must, but I'm sold on the concept of the S-Pod. I'm also keen to see what other alternative personal mobility options will be available to people like me who don't feel confident on scooters or bikes in the future.