Japan is one of the world’s leading countries for innovation and technology. From past to present, products labelled “Made in Japan” are undoubtedly recognized as high-quality products. That is one of the important characteristics of Japanese products. In addition to the quality, the other unique point in Japanese products is their innovation. Japan always keeps on track in bringing new technologies to develop their products ranging from household appliances to automobiles.
As you may know, the automotive industry in Japan is one of the largest in the world. Many brands of automobile manufacturers are popular around the world, such as Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, etc. According to their professional production, many vehicles have been produced with more and more innovative functions in order to support people to have simpler and more convenient lives.
In this article, I will introduce two new and innovative vehicles developed by top Japanese automobile companies: (1) Winglet by Toyota and (2) UNI-CUB by Honda. Both of them are released as non-commercial products which means you can perform a test drive only at Odaiba! Now let’s see how innovative they are!
1. UNI-CUB by Honda
Photo by Mj-bird (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Tokumeigakarinoaoshima (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
UNI-CUB is a kind of vehicle defined by Honda as a “personal mobility device”. Previous prototypes of this kind of vehicle had been developed but the UNI-CUB itself was unveiled in 2011. The purpose of this vehicle is to use in such indoor environments as shopping malls, airports, museums, exhibition halls, and so on. Riding this vehicle is so simple that you just sit on the saddle, put your feet on the footrests, and control it by putting your weight on the direction you want to go, not only the horizontal direction but also the slope. The maximum speed of this vehicle is 6km/h or about 10,000 paces. Moreover, its self-balancing technology is the same as that of ASIMO, the humanoid robot that is also developed by Honda. The technology developed for the latest model of UNI-CUB (UNI-CUB β) makes it so easy to use by the novice that the first-time training takes only 10 minutes!
Even though this vehicle is very well-developed, it has a weakness that is a balancing loss in some conditions such as when a rider put too much weight on the left or right side, or when the vehicle goes through very rough surface. The system will warn that the vehicle cannot keep its self-balance. However, the rider can just move the feet from the footrests to the ground to pause the movement that is very simple and safe. For those readers who are interested in a UNI-CUB insight, please check out their site at their site.
Personal Mobility UNI-CUB Station at Miraikan
UNI-CUB is now available for general visitors to try at Personal Mobility UNI-CUB Station inside Miraikan Museum at Odaiba. For each session, a group of four people will be guided by the UNI-CUB staff to take a tour around the museum. In addition to riding this vehicle, this is a chance to get some interesting knowledge from the museum too! So if you go to Odaiba, you should not miss a chance to try the UNI-CUB!
Video by James Antrobus
Admission Fees and Business Hours:
Fees: 700 yen (Miraikan Welcome Tour, 30 Minutes)
1,300 yen (Permanent Exhibition Tour, 60 Minutes)
Hours: 10:10 – 15:50 (Weekdays, Miraikan Welcome Tour)
10:10 – 16:10 (Weekends & Holidays, Miraikan Welcome Tour)
11:10 – 12:10 and 15:30 – 16:30 (Only Saturday, Permanent Exhibition Tour)
Due to congestion, I recommend making a reservation at the reception in advance.
2. Winglet by Toyota
Winglet in Basic Model (left) and Sporty Model (right). Photo by MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr
The Winglet is a two-wheeled scooter developed by Toyota. It was first unveiled in 2008. There are two variations: the basic model and sporty model. The basic model (long type) comes with a handle so that any riders, from young to old, can operate it easily. The sporty type comes without a handle so that the rider can be hands-free and move more actively. This vehicle is designed to have the rider stand on the pad and control it by using body weight to move straight, left, right, or turn around. The maximum speed of this vehicle is 6km/h which is the same as UNI-CUB’s. Moreover, it has been tested to be practical in both indoor and outdoor environments.
Winglet ScoreRace during pre-ride explanation
You can now try riding the Winglet at MEGA WEB Toyota City Showcase which is a part of Venus Fort shopping mall in Odaiba. There are various courses available for experiencing Winglet both indoor and outdoor. However, only Winglet ScoreRace has a session in English. This course is designed as a game that allows two people to compete by riding the vehicles along the specified paths with a laser tracking system and collecting the dots to get scores. The course takes only 15 minutes including the pre-ride explanation. So you can drop by and enjoy it as one of the most fun and challenging attractions in Odaiba!
Admission Fees and Business Hours:
Winglet Challenge: 11:00 – 18:00 (Weekdays only for English instruction)
Winglet Tour: 11:30 - 17:30 (Tour only in Japanese)
Reservations are required at the reception in advance.
Video by affettuosamente
I tried both UNI-CUB and Winglet. I would say that each of them has its own uniqueness and style of applications. However, both companies are still developing and refining these vehicles to make them mature enough to be applicable in the real world. Also, they are still under the process of legal approval as a real vehicle so that they can be used in public spaces. According to their usefulness, I believe that these vehicles will surely be a next-generation transportion in the near future. I will be looking forward to them launching as commercial products. Keep up the good work!