Segway’s newest self-balancing vehicle looks strange, but what’s new? Segways have always made riders look like technological fools. At least in Segway’s newest vehicle, the egg-shaped S-Pod wheelchair thing, you can wave at your haters from a comfortably seated position as you roll on by.
And I’ll tell you what: looking cool was the last thing on my mind when I got to drive the S-Pod around at Segway-Ninebot’s booth at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show, because this thing is actually a lot of fun.
The S-Pod was announced late last week ahead of CES, and it serves as a sort of more relaxed spiritual successor to the original Segway and its many iterations. It allegedly has a mind-boggling top speed of 24 miles per hour, though the unit I drove on the show floor was speed limited to 7.5 mph. And it’s slated to be released in the second half of 2020, likely in fleet form first before any direct-to-consumer sales ever happen.
THE S-POD NEVER FELT LIKE IT WAS GOING TO TIP OVER
I found the S-Pod to be more fun than a stand-up Segway because there was almost no learning curve. There’s no need to find your balance, since the S-Pod is controlled with a joystick on the right side of the seat. Push forward to go forward, back to go in reverse, and to the left or right to spin in place. Moving the joystick between 10 and 11 o’clock or 1 and 2 o’clock will let you turn left or right, respectively, while maintaining speed. Overall, the S-Pod is somehow pretty nimble despite being what must be a relatively heavy piece of equipment.
Like its predecessors, the S-Pod has just a few “features.” There was a light strip over my right shoulder that communicates the battery level, and there are more lights on the back that serve as turn signals. The colors of these lights can be customized using a tablet that pops out of the left armrest. There’s also a horn button, though that didn’t work on the prototype I drove.
But the most impressive thing about the S-Pod is that it is rock solid despite the fact that the giant chair sits on just two wheels. It never once felt like the S-Pod was going to tip over in any direction, regardless of whether I was stopped or taking turns around sharp corners. From the moment I turned on the S-Pod and it lifted me up into the active position, it was easy to feel Segway’s many years of experience with self-balancing gyroscopic technology.
Alas, this is CES, and things tend to go wrong with even the best prototypes. At the very end of my ride, the joystick came loose, and the Segway egg (and I) crashed into the wall. Thankfully, there was no great fall.