Toyota Winglet

Toyota Motor Corporation has recently announced the development of a new Segway-like vehicle, called Winglet, which is controlled (like the original Segway) by the user’s weight shifting. The company defines the new vehicle as a personal transport assistance robot and currently offers three different models.

The Winglet consists of a body (with a projected area the size of an A3 sheet of paper) that houses an electric motor, two wheels, and internal sensors that constantly monitor the user’s position and make adjustments in power to ensure stability. Simultaneously, a unique parallel link mechanism allows the rider to go forward, backward, and turn simply by shifting body weight, making the vehicle safe and useful even in tight spaces or crowded environments.

Three models have been created, “L”, “M”, and “S” (large, medium and small) and each has different handling features that allow consumers to select a model appropriate to their needs, from “practical” to “hands-free sporty.” While the length and width of the three models are the same, (265mm x 464mm), the height differs – 462mm for the S model, 680mm for the M model, and 1,130mm for the L model. However, all three models have the same cruising speed of 6 km/h, and a charging time of one hour (when empty). Furthermore, all can rotate within the Winglet’s own space (meaning it has a zero degrees turn radius).

Toyota Motors is planning to perform various technical and consumer trials to gain feedback during the Winglet’s lead-up to practical use. Practical tests of its utility as a mobility tool are planned to begin in autumn 2008 at Central Japan International Airport (Centrair) near Nagoya, and Laguna Gamagori, a seaside marine resort complex in Aichi Prefecture. Testing of its usefulness in crowds and other conditions along with how non-users react to the device are to be carried out in 2009 at the Tressa Yokohama shopping complex in Yokohama City.

TFOT has previously covered other unique personal vehicles such as the 360, which is an innovative sports item that combines the different characteristics of snowboarding, surfing, and skateboarding, and the Easy-Glider X6, which looks a bit like a strange hybrid between a scooter and a Segway. Other related TFOT stories include the Wheelsurf, a single-wheeled ride-inside vehicle, and the Can-Am Spyder, a three-wheeled vehicle.

For more information on the Winglet, see Toyota’s press release.

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