'Smart' Scooter Driven To Change Your Commute - InformationWeek

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'Smart' Scooter Driven To Change Your Commute

A kick-assisted scooter aims to help commuters in circumstances where walking would take too long.

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Niko Klansek came to the US from Slovenia to play high school basketball. In time, his attention shifted from ball to wheel. Two years ago in New York, he founded FlyKly through a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of a pedal-assisted electric bicycle wheel, FlyKly's Smart Wheel. His goal was to make cycling an appealing transit option.

The campaign raised over $700,000, seven times more than its funding goal. According to Klansek, more than 3,000 people in 60 countries are now riding bikes with his company's Smart Wheel.

FlyKly has just launched its second Kickstarter campaign, this time for Smart Ped, a kick-assisted scooter. 

Klansek, now based in Milan, Italy, where production and development takes place, stopped by InformationWeek's San Francisco office with a prototype for a demonstration.

(Image: Thomas Claburn)

(Image: Thomas Claburn)

Klansek said the Smart Wheel represented an effort to make cities more bike-friendly, a goal in a growing number of urban areas due to increasing population density. The plan for Smart Ped is similar. "City centers are now closing down for cars," he said, "and are becoming really a pedestrian area. Because of that, more and more people are using scooters to get to work. So we decided to focus on that last mile of the commute."

By "last mile," Klansek is referring to situations where walking might take too long, rather than a specific distance. Examples include a journey from a parking lot outside a city center or a transit station to an office many blocks away.

"The scooter is the perfect solution for that," said Klansek. "It's very portable. You can bring it to the train, the office, the post office. It can go everywhere with you. And also it can be folded."

The Smart Ped uses the force of the rider's kick to generate the power that helps keep the scooter moving at a constant speed. If you kick hard, it keeps you moving fast. A more gentle kick offers a correspondingly slower ride. It's a bit like being on ice skates. With a strong push, you can coast for long distances as the electric motor works to sustain your momentum. It's also rather fun.

(Image: Thomas Claburn)

(Image: Thomas Claburn)

"With a regular scooter, maybe you have to kick every 10 feet to keep the same speed," Klansek explained. "With ours ... every two to three blocks you'd have to kick again."

Klansek acknowledges that the device has some limitations. Its motor isn't powerful enough to carry a rider up a series of steep San Francisco hills. "This is more of an assist," he said. "If you're strong enough to go [up a hill] with a regular scooter, this will just make it easier."

A hundred years ago, a similar, albeit bulkier, motorized scooter, the Autoped, was being used in New York City and elsewhere. "It was really popular with post officers," Klansek explained. "But it was also popular with [gangsters] because it was the perfect getaway vehicle at that time. So when we saw this, we said we need to make a 2015 version."

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Those who can have the opportunity to improve the future.

(Image: FlyKly)

(Image: FlyKly)

The Smart Ped works with BitRide app, which allows users to track their commutes. Klansek said his company is providing city officials and bike groups with anonymized travel data to improve urban planning.

The app also allows users to lock the Smart Ped's rear wheel with a PIN, a feature implemented in the company's Smart Wheel for bicycles as well.

In Milan recently, Klansek said, four Smart Wheel-equipped bikes were stolen and the thieves tried to unlock the wheels by guessing the codes. But after three incorrect guesses, the app sends an alert to FlyKly. "So we started figuring out who these people were and we were able to recover the bikes," said Klansek.

[Read about Daimler testing a self-driving truck on the Germany's Autobahn.]

Theft should be less of a problem with the Smart Ped, said Klansek, because it's portable enough to take anywhere.

Two Smart Ped models are planned, a basic model (€874/~$1,003 with shipping), slated for delivery in December, and a premium edition (€1,074/~$1,232 with shipping), slated for delivery in March. Both versions have a folding steering column. The premium model also has a folding running board, which makes its usable as a handcart.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2015 | 4:14:44 AM
Re: Smart Sccoter
"Today, marketers are really good.  They try to attach these buzz words to any electronic product device, people sometimes believe that such buzzwords are correct and will make their life better, but they are really fooled.   I think that such buzzwords will lose value since they keep throwing it and any new device. I can imagine seeing a smart shoe, smart pens, smart socks."

Pedro, you are very right and OEM's or service providers are misusing the key/Buzz words. But how many of the customers are bothered about it; majority won't because necessity drives them rather than such slogan or buzzwords.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/6/2015 | 6:52:55 PM
Re: Smart Sccoter
Today, marketers are really good.  They try to attach these buzz words to any electronic product device, people sometimes believe that such buzzwords are correct and will make their life better, but they are really fooled.   I think that such buzzwords will lose value since they keep throwing it and any new device. I can imagine seeing a smart shoe, smart pens, smart socks.
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
11/2/2015 | 6:27:07 AM
Re: Smart Sccoter
" I would like to know why they called it smart as well. We call our mobile devices smart phones, but are they really smart? how is this smart scooter different from a (dumb scooter)? will it warn you if you about to hit an obstacle, upcoming traffic, or if it was stolen."

Pedro, "smart, Auto "are buzz words for business and we can see difference instances or products which are misusing such buzz words. Now a day's any product or services which are unique from their competitor come with such tags.
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2015 | 1:34:43 PM
Limiting factor
Does anyone else feel like this is the Segway's little sister? A little smaller, needing more assistance but trying to do the same basic thing? If you aren't comfortable bike riding or riding a regular scooter, making it power assist is not going to help much. In my area we often have no street lights, and sometimes no sidewalks. Onlt a very few places have anything resembling a bike lane. It makes riding in traffic the only option and that is dangerous. I applaud his efforts into helping people have the option to bike or scoot, but until the city infrastructure becomes more bike friendly, that will be the limiting factor.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/24/2015 | 1:39:24 PM
Re: Smart Sccoter
I get it Gigi.  I would like to know why they called it smart as well. We call our mobile devices smart phones, but are they really smart? how is this smart scooter different from a (dumb scooter)? will it warn you if you about to hit an obstacle, upcoming traffic, or if it was stolen.
Gigi3
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0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2015 | 6:21:04 AM
Re: Smart Sccoter
" In places like Amsterndam or more pedestrian friendly cities it could really grow.  I think in the U.S. where cities are spread out it could be difficult.  I hope they learn the lesson from the Segway, excellent idea but it didn't catch on. "

Pedro, if more peoples are using such scooter, then traffic can be reducing considerable and hence pollution too. Moreover such scooters can us bicycle lane for commuting.
Gigi3
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0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2015 | 6:14:24 AM
Re: Smart Sccoter
"Safety is as much an issue of the environment in which you're riding as the device. It has brakes, and it's not going to go much faster than you can kick, but it's still vulnerable if you're riding in the street. It's not for everyone or every situation, but for certain scenarios it may be just the thing."

Thomas, my question is what made it "smart". These are all common features  with most of such devices.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2015 | 10:03:01 PM
Re: Smart Sccoter
I think in places in big cities like NYC it will be a huge problem because of the limited space it has to maneuver.  I still think it has potential.  In places like Amsterndam or more pedestrian friendly cities it could really grow.  I think in the U.S. where cities are spread out it could be difficult.  I hope they learn the lesson from the Segway, excellent idea but it didn't catch on. 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/16/2015 | 8:50:33 AM
Re: Smart Sccoter
Safety is as much an issue of the environment in which you're riding as the device. It has brakes, and it's not going to go much faster than you can kick, but it's still vulnerable if you're riding in the street. It's not for everyone or every situation, but for certain scenarios it may be just the thing.
Gigi3
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0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2015 | 5:02:52 AM
Smart Sccoter
"Klansek acknowledges that the device has some limitations. Its motor isn't powerful enough to carry a rider up a series of steep San Francisco hills. "This is more of an assist," he said. "If you're strong enough to go [up a hill] with a regular scooter, this will just make it easier.""

Thomas, what made it smart? it may be good for plain surface, but hilly areas difficult to ride. Another thing is if its foldable, then commuters can fold and keep it in suitable places. What about the saftey part?
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