The future of transportation?

With the ever-increasing flow of traffic into large metropolitan areas becoming a major problem for the environment and humans, several companies have seen the need for creating substitute methods of transportation.

The first of such mainstream products, the Segway, has been met with a lukewarm response from consumers. However, a Canadian-based company hopes to contend in this industry of future transportation methods.

Bombardier Recreational Products, a transport manufacturer, has been developing an alternative form of transportation, EMBRIO, and has created a computer-generated concept model.

If accepted, the vehicle could prove to be a widely endorsed form of simple transportation, thereby alleviating traffic congestion.

Company officials hope the product will attract a much younger demographic than the Segway and have set their target audience for the 18 to 45 age group.

The prototype creation resembles and operates much like a one-wheeled motorcycle in that users have to sit in the same manner and have access to a throttle and brake on the handlebars.

EMBRIO riders will also be required to lean into turns instead of turning the wheel assembly. The control scheme is similar to that of a standard motorcycle, which requires the same turning method.

In addition to the seating and control arrangements, the vehicle also borrows other cues from the automotive world, such as an active suspension, high-performance braking system and night vision.

Aside from its automotive innovations, the product also benefits from the stabilizing technology brought forth by the Segway. By utilizing a series of gyroscopes and sensors, the EMBRIO allows one or more users to remain balanced while riding.

The smaller set of wheels in the front help with the user’s balance because the wheels touch the ground when the vehicle is decelerating or at a stop. Once in motion, the “landing gear” retracts when the vehicle attains a speed of 12 mph.

Top speed for the vehicle is reported to be at 35 mph in learning mode alone. In comparison, the Segway’s top speed is only 6 mph.

To achieve this higher speed, the vehicle utilizes a hydrogen fuel cell that creates power by mixing hydrogen and oxygen. This technology is the same as that being developed by General Motors and other auto manufacturers who hope to have the technology implemented into a model by 2010.

In addition to its alternative power method, the EMBRIO adds to its environmentally friendly stance by using recycled aluminum and polyethylene for its construction.

Unlike its predecessor in the world of alternative transportation, the concept’s sketches place it at a weight of 360 pounds. This puts it at disadvantage for some, who feel the 35-pound Segway’s ability to fit easily inside a car trunk is one of its better features.

Some might argue that this could not be a problem for the EMBRIO, as it is being marketed as an alternative form of transportation meant to be driven on roads for longer periods of time.

The EMBRIO concept was the vision of Bombardier designers, who were instructed to create a recreational vehicle that would fit the needs of consumers by 2025.

One barrier that could hinder the invention’s acceptance could be its size compared to larger vehicles on the road. Drivers could feel unsafe to be surrounded by 6800-pound SUVs as they cruise the streets.

Some experts, though, have speculated that new lanes will be added to the infrastructure as more small alternative means of transportation become available.

Although only in the concept stage, the vehicle has been awarded the 2003 Gold Annual Design Award by the Industrial Design Society of America and Business Week Magazine.

This invention will not be Bombardier’s first innovation, as they have other accomplishments under their belt. One such accomplishment was the company’s introduction of the first snowmobile in 1946.

Because the device is only in its concept stage, it will be several years before a working prototype will be produced. If EMBRIO’s designers come through on some of their promises, it could shape up to be a plausible option for users in search of an alternative means of transportation.

It remains to be seen if the EMBRIO’s hype will be likened to the media blitz that surrounded the Segway. Saturation or not, it could be a tough stereotype for the product to overcome because of previous promises of Segway’s inventors to provide a revolution in the way cities operate.

A concept video for the vehicle on Bombardier’s Web site claims the company has found the missing link of transportation. Only time will tell if this invention will be able to surpass previous transportation innovations in the amount of impact it has on the industry.