Friday, 24 August 2012

Robot lawnmowers and digital unicycles: Five insane vehicles you never knew Honda made


Robot lawnmowers and digital unicycles: Five insane vehicles you never knew Honda made

Honda’s got a new wheeled machine to show off today. But it’s not a new hatchback or an electric taxi to rival Nissan’s new black cab. It’s a robot lawnmower that cuts the grass for you and never needs maintenance.

Sounds bizarre? For the Japanese auto-giant, it’s anything but. The company has a rich heritage of quirky cars and robot servants and everything that blurs the boundaries between them. Remember Asimo, the plucky robot spotted doing everything from playing football to conducting an orchestra? He’s just the start. We’ve picked five of the best Honda creations you’ll never see stuck in traffic on the M1.

The robot lawnmower

Meet the Honda Miimo, the Roomba for your garden. This critter roams around using three sensors, charting a random route to avoid wearing your precious lawn out. It can get round gardens of up to 3,000 square metres – about one half of a football pitch – every few days, and returns to its docking station every night to charge up.

It can’t be stolen – you need to punch in a PIN code every time you pick it up – but best of all, it never needs emptying. Because it trims the grass just a few millimetres at a time, every few days, the tiny trimmings are left in the turf to decompose, not that you’ll see them. It’s just been launched today in Europe, and goes on sale early next year. Honda doesn’t give a price, but hey, if you have to ask…

The Honda Uni-Cub

The intelligent unicycle

Unlike the Miimo, the Honda Uni-Cub isn’t commercially available, but then having this much fun might not be legal anyway. It’s a Segway-style unicycle that balances itself, and can be turned with a simple tilt to the side – plus you can pack it up and pull out a handle so it’s easy to carry, and needs no case. With a cruising speed of 3.7mph it’s not designed to get you about in a hurry, but with an aging population, Honda’s hoping it could be a next generation mobility solution.

The motorized Zimmer frame

The motorized Zimmer frame

Speaking of which, Honda’s got another great vehicle for those who find walking difficult or impossible. Weighing just 2.4kg, the Honda Stride Management Assist is a pair of robot leg braces that can help you walk at a brisk pace of up to 2.8mph for more than an hour on a charge. It’s not commercially available just yet, but earlier this month, Honda announced that Japan’s National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology was carrying out trials with 40 patients.The real life Tron bike

OK, it’s actually a tricycle. But still, Honda’s quirky single passenger vehicle looks like a light cycle. The Honda 3R-C is glimpse into a future where we all get around busy cities in nippy little solo vehicles, cutting down on congestion and fumes – it’s electric of course. Dreamt up for the 2010 Geneva Motor Show by Honda’s Italian design team in Miln, it’s sadly not going on sale anytime soon.

The Honda P-NUT

The car from the future

But what about those times when you really do need to fit another person in the car with you? Honda’s P-NUT car (Personal-Neo Urban Transport, for those in the know) will get at least two people from A to B in the future. Even if it’s just a prototype, it’s how Honda sees most of us getting around in the future: it’s spacious and leggy on the inside, with a modular engine so you can use clean electricity nipping around town, and petrol for those long distance journeys. Cleverly, the windscreen also acts as a screen, displaying a feed from the rear view camera straight on to the glass.

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