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Lit Motors, Danny Kim, and Changing How Americans Drive

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the soma-isn't-just-a-ritual-drink dept.

Transportation 144

Nerval's Lobster writes "In early March, Lit Motors founder Danny Kim hit the road to meet investors. The Portland native needed to keep the momentum growing for his small firm, which builds the two-wheeled C-1. His modest lab, located in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood, could accommodate another 12 employees—but he needed the money to fund them, and to build a manufacturing facility that could turn his prototype ideas into a reality. Like Elon Musk and other manufacturing savants, Kim is someone who enjoys the challenge of building things—whether it's eyeglasses, chairs, or motor vehicles from scratch. He's spent the past five years re-thinking modern transportation, and using those insights to design prototypes of two-wheeled, motor-driven vehicles that can self-balance with a dancer's grace, thanks to an integrated software platform and a patented gyroscopic system. In a wide-ranging conversation with Slashdot, Kim discussed his plans for manufacturing the C-1, as well as the challenges in convincing consumers to try out a new kind of vehicle. "Seventy-two percent of commuters drive alone, so it just made sense to cut the car in half," he said, explaining the decision to go with two wheels instead of four. 'You have to think about this two-wheeled car as a robot because of its stability. It purely uses our AI/stability algorithm so it can balance and you don't have to. We had to develop our own firmware for our own dynamic system. It is code heavy.'"

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These work some of the time, cars all the time (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515459)

Just because people usually ride alone doesn't mean that they always ride alone. These one person vehicles become useless if you ever have passengers. And they're not cheap enough to justify having a second one just lying around if you ever need a passenger.

Elio (5, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46515725)

Indeed. I recently spotted the Elio, which seems to have real potential if they can pull it off. A spacious three-wheeler with automotive safety features, a large back seat, 84mpg, a top speed over 100mph, and a price tag well under the cheapest mainstream cars. Doesn't look nearly as fun to drive as a C1 or Carver, but better than a normal car, and at a price point that could give it a place as something other than an expensive toy. Definitely gonna take a test drive at least, should it make it to market.
http://www.eliomotors.com/ [eliomotors.com]
http://fox40.com/2013/09/17/be... [fox40.com]

Re:Elio (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 7 months ago | (#46516061)

There is also the Chinese made Wildfire WF650-C [google.com] 3-wheeler. An older couple near me has one of these. Takes a bit to get up to speed but 56MPG beats most four wheeled vehicles.

Re:Elio (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46516353)

There's a lot of vehicles like that, but having a single wheel up front is a serious stability issue in turns, and you can find no shortage of videos of them rolling when drivers get overly aggressive. Also, and this is just me personally - if I'm driving some sort of lightweight wierdo vehicle interesting looks and decent acceleration and handling are a major plus - after all I'm going to have to merge with highway traffic, and inevitably dodge some idiot in an SUV that thinks they own the road - I've had to do that often enough in a sedan.

Re:Elio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46517493)

The Wildfire 125 scooters are crap....breaks down if you push it to 55 mph.....

Re:Elio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46517533)

This distributor has ten cases under review with the Ohio Attorney General and 30 with the Better Business Bureau
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced 0n April 3, 2013, that it is withdrawing approval of the import and sale of up to 74,000 gas-powered on- and off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles from China. The agency believes that it received either incomplete or falsified certification information. [1]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildfire_(motor_company)#WF650-T_and_WF650-C

Re:Elio (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | about 7 months ago | (#46517379)

A spacious three-wheeler with automotive safety features, a large back seat, 84mpg, a top speed over 100mph,

Either that mpg rating is grossly optimistic or I predict 0-60 in ...around...6 minutes or so.

I can't think of a single large bike that get over 35mpg, and while I'm sure the aerodynamics help, the extra weight most certainly doesn't.

Re:Elio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46517803)

My 1989 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 normally gets 45 mpg.

"Changing how americans drive" (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46515463)

I wish that phrase didn't set off my "marketing bullshit" alarms(as is clearly appropriate in this case) because a culture of long-distance driving commutes is leading to serious long-term problems with respect to suburban sprawl and blight. Retreating residential neighborhoods a little further down the interstate every time an area falls into disrepair(and no, it's not just white flight) is causing huge swaths of places where no one will ever want to live.

Re:"Changing how americans drive" (2, Funny)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#46515587)

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of two-wheeled, motor driven vehicles. What would one of these strange motor-cycles even LOOK like??? Truly, that's a "new kind of vehicle" indeed!

Re:"Changing how americans drive" (2)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 7 months ago | (#46515713)

I think he's stolen my idea. I have three of these motor-driven cycles. One working model (with 120,000 miles on the clock), one with some minor electrical problems that I'm ironing out (22,000 miles before the problems started), and one that has minimal electronics that I'm in the process of building.

The bastard!

[John]

Re:"Changing how americans drive" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515705)

Yeah, but it's changing; I live in one of the formerly passed over areas, and in the last few years there have been 5000+ new rental units added around me. Traffic here sucks, and my has transit, so people are moving here rather than out further. Now parking is harder, but I also have a lot of new restaurants so I'm happy.

Re:"Changing how americans drive" (2)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 7 months ago | (#46515733)

Reminds me of the Segway hype.

Re:"Changing how americans drive" (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46515813)

I do agree that this has the potential to change driving - most of the benefits of a motorcycle with few of the drawbacks. However I don't see it affecting sprawl or blight in least. If anything it may exacerbate the problem by making the drive slightly more enjoyable and less expensive. What it could change, is reducing the fuel consumption and amount of road necessary for a given traffic density.

Sprawl does not by itself render areas unused (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 7 months ago | (#46515869)

a culture of long-distance driving commutes is leading to serious long-term problems with respect to suburban sprawl and blight. Retreating residential neighborhoods a little further down the interstate every time an area falls into disrepair

People don't move "a little further down the interstate" because of disrepair - they usually do so because of crowding and cost.

There are lots of cities that have healthy city cores AND healthy suburbs that extend very far out.

Yes most cities also have a "bad" area but that area is usually not core to the city, it's off to the side of the core and is avoided both by moving to the center, and the suburbs. And to me it seems only reasonable that people would want to use the ability a car gives them to live more remotely, to chose where on the scale of urban->suburban makes them most comfortable. Eliminating the car just means a lot of people suddenly don't have suburban as an option that would otherwise be much happier there, no matter how nice the city core was.

Beta sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46516201)

"a culture of long-distance driving commutes is leading to serious long-term problems with respect to suburban sprawl and blight"

Yeah, fsck all those sick bastards who don't want to live in crowded cities. They probably vote Republican, too.

Re:Beta sucks (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46516471)

Well, that would instantly make them shitty human beings, but, pretending your suburbs aren't "crowded cities" is, at best, deluding yourself.

Re:Beta sucks (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 7 months ago | (#46516927)

When I think "suburbs", I think single-family homes and a lower population density than the city core. In comparison to cities, suburbs aren't crowded.

Re:Beta sucks (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46517697)

They're crowded with all the things that make cities unpleasant: idiots, buildings, roads.

mean while (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515483)

his home state would be cheaper to work in, cheaper to build in, and has money.

But hay, go to San Fran, becasue there sin't any competition for money there...

Re:mean while (1)

PrimaryConsult (1546585) | about 7 months ago | (#46517549)

This is a very good point, replying to hopefully make it more visible.

If he wanted a hip, trendy city Seattle would have worked nicely, while not as cheap as Portland it's still a better bang for the real estate $ than SF... hell, any city would be better, even NYC (outside Manhattan)...

This may be a rather localized consideration but (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 7 months ago | (#46515493)

These will be way too easy to tip into canals. It's like a Smart only even less heavy and more weird-looking.

Re:This may be a rather localized consideration bu (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 months ago | (#46515531)

I disagree, I think it looks nice. Certainly nicer than a Smart Car.

As a motorcyclist (including daily commuting), an enclosed motorcycle doesn't seem at all absurd to me. It addresses the main disadvantages that prevent most people from riding motorcycles - higher safety (if it is adequately constructed, obviously) and protection from the elements.

Re:This may be a rather localized consideration bu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515567)

Safety? Some drunk with a pickup truck or some soccer mom texting with a SUV would put the driver of this vehicle into the hospital, if not in the morgue.

This is something that would be useful for places like Paris, London, or other cities where vehicles are small and nothing goes over 60km/hr on the streets. However, in the US, this is as dangerous as a motorcycle, but without the agility of a bike.

Re:This may be a rather localized consideration bu (3, Insightful)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 7 months ago | (#46515871)

Perhaps. But the more folks who start out on 2 wheels, the more observant they are of the surrounding area and of motorcyclists. So bring it on. The more, the better.

[John]

Re:This may be a rather localized consideration bu (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about 7 months ago | (#46515901)

It definitely looks nice, but I think they went too far. Protection from the elements and increased efficiency due to reduced air drag are wonderful things we should have equipped street bikes with long time ago. However, it's too heavy (360kg) and too expensive ($24,000), meaning it's more akin to a thin smart car than to a bubble bike. I'd bet a gas-powered 100kg moped can beat the C-1's city commute energy efficiency at a $1,500 price point, especially if we bring manufacturing into the equation. When we do that, the moped can end up being better for the environment, too.

Re:This may be a rather localized consideration bu (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 months ago | (#46516819)

I think that depends on the market they are targeting. In the US, a 100KG moped will never sell, because it cannot have enough protection to make it reasonably safe. The per-mile death rate on motorcycles is about 35 times that of cars. That is out of the question to the vast majority of people who can afford something safer.

Really it would be interesting to see how light you could make a reasonably safe vehicle, e.g. using a titanium frame with a carbon-fiber shell, then working backwards to make it cheaper from there. And by "reasonably safe," I mean putting it through the standard battery of NHTSA and insurance institute for highway safety tests.

Re:This may be a rather localized consideration bu (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about 7 months ago | (#46517125)

Well, a Harley also doesn't offer enough protection to make it reasonably safe, and I think they sell pretty well in the US. Bikes sell about 500.000 units a year in there, that's a pretty ok number, roughly one in every 600 people seem to buy one each year (is my math correct? It seems too many people). There are lots of drivers, like me, ready to sacrifice safety for efficiency. I'm not saying it's a smart choice, but I think it's a choice made enough times as to create a hefty market.

Hipster Scooter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515501)

24K for an enclosed motorscooter with a gryoscope?
Better have a cupholder for your PBR..

"Changing how Americans drive" (4, Insightful)

EvilSS (557649) | about 7 months ago | (#46515505)

Haven't we heard that before? About another self-balancing 2-wheel vehicle?

Re:"Changing how Americans drive" (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46515525)

It's the rallying cry of every vehicular product that tries to maintain the status quo by being small and cheap. Our problems are not one that can be solved by a marketing campaign.

Re:"Changing how Americans drive" (1)

xplosiv (129880) | about 7 months ago | (#46515997)

Do your research before thinking it's another self-balancing vehicle. That said, I'm not aware of any other vehicle which balances itself, even when not moving, or can handle a side impact crash, without tipping over. Please don't use E-Tracer as an example, because they are 2 different vehicles.

Check out the videos floating around the internet, this vehicle really does have a chance to make a difference, or check out LitMotorsForums.com if you want to have a real discussion [litmotorsforums.com] .

Re:"Changing how Americans drive" (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about 7 months ago | (#46516261)

Do your research before thinking it's another self-balancing vehicle.

So it's not a self-balancing two wheel vehicle? because...

two-wheeled, motor-driven vehicles that can self-balance with a dancer's grace

Either way I take it I talk to you if I'm interested in buying one?

Re:"Changing how Americans drive" (1)

xplosiv (129880) | about 7 months ago | (#46516373)

Do your research before thinking it's another self-balancing vehicle.

So it's not a self-balancing two wheel vehicle? because...

two-wheeled, motor-driven vehicles that can self-balance with a dancer's grace

Either way I take it I talk to you if I'm interested in buying one?

Wow, way to put words in my mouth ;) I'm using using your own words, but I did explain how it is self balancing, so I guess you are just nitpicking at this point (miss the old /. days where people actually tried to understand/learn about new tech)

If you are interested, go to litmotors.com ;) I'm just someone who actually did the research, believes in EVs, and put down a deposit on a C-1.

Now, if you have any real/serious questions, I can try to help answer them.

Politeness and patience potion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515529)

Because that's what American drivers need - politeness and patience. Basically, drop the ME ME ME! and add in some consideration of others.

And for some damn reason, Prius drivers need it the most. And I'm not kidding - I ride my bicycles about 10,000 miles a year, and damn if Prius drivers aren't the most cluelessly aggressive on a per-Prius basis. Yeah, I run into more BMW and Passat jackasses, but that's because there are more BMWs and Passats out there.

Why Passats? I think it's because they're basically sold as a poor-boy's BMW. Take a marketing model aimed at pricks, only they're now pissed off because they can't afford the real thing.

Re:Politeness and patience potion? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515581)

Aggressive, angry post calling other drivers aggressive and angry.

If it was cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515585)

If it was cheap & kept up its supposed features (200 miles, crash rated, etc) it could definitely become a popular commuter vehicle. Unfortunately it looks like this thing will cost the same as a good full sized car/SUV ($24,000 per the website). You're not going to be able to get people to give up 4 door vehicles with cargo space for an enclosed electric motorcycle that you can maybe sandwich two people or one person and a few grocery bags when they cost basically the same.

"We had to develop our own firmware... (3, Insightful)

PSUSkier (3517721) | about 7 months ago | (#46515595)

...for our own dynamic system. It is code heavy." Maybe I've been working around software too long, but the more code needed to run a single function generally equates to more software defects. In a balancing and stability control system, I'd hate to be the one to find it.

Unhandled exception (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46516231)

clunk/crash/boom

Re:"We had to develop our own firmware... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#46516449)

Nah, it will work just fine, unless you try to cross the date line.

Re:"We had to develop our own firmware... (1)

schlachter (862210) | about 7 months ago | (#46516827)

you have to find balance in your approach

Why two wheels? (4, Insightful)

Wdomburg (141264) | about 7 months ago | (#46515603)

What specific value is there in using two wheels and a "code heavy" stability algorithm instead of using more vehicles. For example, Elio motors is aiming for 84mpg with a three wheel car [phys.org] that uses "no special technology" and is expected to cost $6800.

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

Ly4 (2353328) | about 7 months ago | (#46515693)

Well, it's narrower - that'll help in many urban areas, and will make finding parking a bit easier. A two-wheel car is also a little less likely to take out pedestrians with one of those protruding front wheels.
But those advantages might be outweighed by other disadvantages - as you've noted, cost and complexity are concerns, and the actual performance of the balancing algorithms and such is still an unknown.

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

Wdomburg (141264) | about 7 months ago | (#46516685)

Yes, narrower at ~ 67" vs 40". But roadways and most parking is built to accommodate cars, which are wider than both. I suppose you could potentially double up along side traditional motorcycles, though.

I'm not sure I see any particular risk to pedestrians. They shouldn't be in traffic in the first place, for starters.

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

Ly4 (2353328) | about 7 months ago | (#46517999)

They shouldn't be in traffic in the first place, for starters.

True, but then again, automobiles shouldn't be driving into crosswalks when I've got the light, but that happened to me today - in fact, during the time since I wrote that last comment.

Today's incident wasn't a big deal, because I was watching the driver, and I could see she was looking only at oncoming traffic from her left, while I was on her right, trying to cross in front of her turn. So I waited, and resisted the temptation to slap the side of her car.

But that's also a scenario where the Elio would have been a bit more of a danger. If I'm watching the driver, that protruding wheel is only in my peripheral vision. That's different from a regular car, where the edge of the car is between us and easier to identify.

So it's a risk - the hard part is quantifying how big of a risk it presents.

Re:Why two wheels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515877)

The biggest problem with Elio is they are classified as a motorcycle, and many states have helmet laws.

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

Wdomburg (141264) | about 7 months ago | (#46516993)

Only five states would require helmets for drivers over 18, and Elio is actively lobbying for exemptions for enclosed vehicles.

And at a weight of only eight hundred pounds and only two wheels, the C-1 is likely subject to the same laws.

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 7 months ago | (#46515895)

At least they have learned from the past [youtube.com] mistakes and put two wheels in the front and one in the back this time.

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

xplosiv (129880) | about 7 months ago | (#46516085)

The C-1 is an electric vehicle, so it's much quieter and nicer to drive if it's anything like other electric vehicles, not to mention, it looks really nice. The C-1 balances itself, making it more difficult to flip the thing. As for being code heavy, try to find out how much software goes into a 'regular' vehicle, I doubt the C-1 will be more complex.

The Elio looks like a GM EV1 chopped in half, and the interior looks like standard dated interior as well. Elio's price is definitely very attractive, but as an EV driver, I just don't want to go back to vehicles using gasoline, no matter how great the mileage is.

C-1's pricing is an issue for sure, but it will come down as always.

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

Smivs (1197859) | about 7 months ago | (#46516321)

The C-1 is an electric vehicle

Nope, it runs on petrol (er, gas :P ) [citroen.co.uk]

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

xplosiv (129880) | about 7 months ago | (#46516389)

That's a C1, not a C-1 ;) I do agree the name can be confusing, as far as I know, this is just a 'project' name, and Lit Motors plans on giving it a real name when they get closer to releasing the vehicle.

Re:Why two wheels? (2)

Smivs (1197859) | about 7 months ago | (#46516477)

Ha, let's hope so, as I suspect Citroen have a bigger legal fund. :) (They're both horrid little things anyway - where's the V8?)

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

Wdomburg (141264) | about 7 months ago | (#46516545)

The point was not to contrast specific vehicles, but the basic design. There have been a number of other EV microvehicles produced or designed, including a number of three-wheeled variants like the ZAP Alias, Toyota i-Ride, Aptera 2, and Green Vehicles Tirac.

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

Wdomburg (141264) | about 7 months ago | (#46516253)

Er, using more WHEELS.

Re:Why two wheels? (1)

schlachter (862210) | about 7 months ago | (#46516843)

because we want special technology!

Failure modes (4, Interesting)

tompaulco (629533) | about 7 months ago | (#46515629)

I prefer a vehicle that doesn't fall over when there is a code failure or the battery dies.

Failure modes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46516665)

Supposedly the gyroscope has a failure mode that sounds about as elegant as that of a helicopter losing its engines. Plus even the wheels will have their own gyroscopic effect at speed.

Re:Failure modes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46517035)

I prefer a vehicle that doesn't have large, high-speed gyros directly underneath my ass. Get into a bad accident and besides all the other problems you might have gyro shrapnel in your junk.

Will succeed post driverless (4, Insightful)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 7 months ago | (#46515637)

The key problem with such an elegant vehicle is that it fails the "Gives better than it got" crash test. SUVs and pickup trucks are popular because people perceive that they are driving a tank and will fare better against the various pop-cans out there. Quite simply if you are in a BMW X5 and have a head on with a prius then you may very well limp away with the prius crew ending up in body bags. With this perception then a vehicle like this will not get much of an audience beyond a few hipsters.

But at some point when driverless cars dominate (and ideally own) the roads then you could potentially safely drive a car made from non-tempered glass. Once this has sunk into car culture then people will wisely conclude that you want to commute (and park) in the least amount of vehicle required to keep you comfortable and get you to your destination in haste.

But while the roads are still filled with morons behind the wheels of multi-tonne homicide factories then any vehicle of this nature will be regarded by the vast majority as DIY coffins.

Re: Will succeed post driverless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515711)

"Tonne" indicates that you almost certainly do not have adequate experience driving in the place you're trying to solve driving problems. Enjoy your tiny little island, though; I'm sure your solutions work great there.

Re:Will succeed post driverless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515803)

In a couple of years fully automatic software-controlled brakes (getting threat information from car2car broardcasts similar to TCAS) could eliminate the need for heavy, drag-inducing crash energy absorbtion volume.

Actually, we coul rid ourselves of traffic jams with a combo of trains, buses and taxis scheduled by smartphone+cloud service around the clock. But hey, that would work against all the sick dreams of Freedom By Car. Plus it would threaten the biz models of Merces, Toyota, Ford and most importantly Exxon, Shell, BP. So, that will never, ever happen.

Also cars are Status Symbols. Meaning that the more wealthy you are, the bigger and fancier carriage you want to show off. THAT is the most important reason for SUVs.

Re:Will succeed post driverless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46516263)

In a couple of years fully automatic software-controlled brakes (getting threat information from car2car broardcasts similar to TCAS) could eliminate the need for heavy, drag-inducing crash energy absorbtion volume.

In a couple of years, there are still going to be plenty of old cars on the road that don't broadcast such information. Even with automatic braking based on radar or such that can detect non-broadcasting obstacles, you still have to deal with situations like someone pulling out in front of you or road condition issues that mean hitting something regardless of how fast you can start to brake. And I'm not sure how much extra drag is involved in having crash absorbing zones, considering you would need some taper and volume in front of a driver anyway as humans are not that aerodynamically shaped.

Re:Will succeed post driverless (1)

serialband (447336) | about 7 months ago | (#46516679)

The radar and automatic braking would mean the collisions would be less serious because it would have occurred at least a full second before your distracted brain could even perceive a threat. The survivability rate in accidents would also improve, saving lives overall and reducing our medical costs as well. You've got to look at the big picture.

Re: Will succeed post driverless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46516495)

No. SUVs are popular because you can transport your entire family in one. I.e. so you can all go to church or the park in it. Slashdot metrosexuals wouldn't understand.

Re: Will succeed post driverless (2)

serialband (447336) | about 7 months ago | (#46516859)

No. SUVs are popular because you can transport your entire family in one. I.e. so you can all go to church or the park in it. Slashdot metrosexuals wouldn't understand.

Not quite. Minivans do that with much better gas mileage and frequently carry more people. SUVs are more status symbols in the suburbs, where there are much more people than in the rural areas. Both were developed because the law requires seatbelts for ALL your passengers. Most SUVs, especially the more popular models do not have quite as much passenger space as a minivan. If you're in rural America, SUVs do make sense, but suburbanites like the larger gas guzzler status of the SUV.

The days where you could cram 6 into the back seat on each other's laps, or fill 15 kids into the back of the pickup truck, are long gone.

Re:Will succeed post driverless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46517679)

Quite simply if you are in a BMW X5 and have a head on with a prius...

Why stop there? On Saturday I saw an X5 get hit damn-near-head-on by a freaking Tahoe, and the driver was OK. A little shaken up, and the car was probably totaled. But she was sitting there behind the wheel, getting her phone out of her purse to call the police. Granted, the Tahoe fared better, and they weren't at highway speeds, but still pretty impressive from a safety standpoint.

The problem with this "give/get" crash test logic is that the only fair solution would be for everybody to be driving the same weight/size of vehicle. Of course a family of 6 isn't going to fit into an Aveo, and it's terribly wasteful for a single college student to be tootling along in a full-sized van. So we make compromises. The crash tests don't demand that you give better than you get, just that the occupants survive relatively unscathed, and that in a minimal case there be no permanent damage. In fact, some companies have even looked into reducing damage to both vehicles (or even pedestrians).

Back on topic. If this little 2-wheeled glorified scooter can keep it's occupant alive, it doesn't really matter if the car itself survives the collision. Sure it will affect your insurance rate, but that's true of any dinky little car. Personally, for $24k I'd expect my car to fare reasonably well in a fender bender, but some people have different priorities.

Re:Will succeed post driverless (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 7 months ago | (#46517683)

"SUVs and pickup trucks are popular because people perceive that they are driving a tank and will fare better against the various pop-cans out there"

Only two kinds of people drive pickups:
- Legit users who use them for actual hauling or towing (minority)
- Manly men* who smoke cigars and wear sunglasses while crossing their arms with a scowl for every photo (like those cool dudes on american chopper). Bonus for adding: lift kits, truck nuts, bigger lift kits, rims, even bigger lift kits, monster truck tires, and chrome. An extra bonus if the pickup is diesel and the engine is modded to blow billowing clouds of black smoke for "coal rolls".

Same goes for SUV's but substitute "manly men" for self important asshole and add a third category: people who want the room if they need it in a pinch but rarely use it. Though they can somewhat fit into the legit users group.

*limited only to their reality bubble. For people outside the reality bubble, "douchebag pussy" is an applicable replacement term. Seriously, fuck those people.

How about some video of it turning? (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about 7 months ago | (#46515639)

I've watched a bunch of videos online of this vehicle. I've seen it go in a straight line. Is there any video of it driving around a curve while traveling at a decent speed?

Motorcycles lean into a turn, lowering their center of gravity and maximizing traction/grip with the road. My guess (in the absence of seeing evidence otherwise) is that they've programmed this vehicle to stay bolt upright and just slide around a lot. Maybe it would be popular with drifters in Tokyo.

Re:How about some video of it turning? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46515847)

Can't offer a link, but I did spot almost such a video, and it seemed to be leaning (pulling out of a parking lot, not highway speeds, so not super obvious). If you've got computer control of the balance it would seem pretty silly *not* to lean when turning - performance is much improved, and the driving experience made more exciting.

The exciting part is when the balancing system goes out of alignment and leans you over at 45* while driving in a straight line.

Re:How about some video of it turning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46516121)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com] is the video you're thinking of.

what I'm more struck by is that they seem to have built a double-swingarm motorcycle, and then put the bodywork right up close to the tires, so if it hits a big bump those tires are going to be driven up into the body. There needs to be some space for the wheels to bounce up & down on their rotation axes when going over bumps, and it doesn't look like they've left more than an inch or two.

Re:How about some video of it turning? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46516453)

No, that wasn't it, it involved one of the newer finished-looking prototypes, though still had the mass of electronics in the "back seat". And it actually showed the turns at parking-lot speeds, rather than cutting away every time he got ready to turn at over 2mph.

Re:How about some video of it turning? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 7 months ago | (#46516181)

The FAQ on their website says that the vehicle leans into turns.

I feel bad for the guy, his plan is terrible. (3, Interesting)

bistromath007 (1253428) | about 7 months ago | (#46515647)

It is an absolute, unmitigated mistake to attempt to market this thing in the US. To get it to work, you'd need to convince each state's DMV to not classify it as a motorcycle, the license for which is more difficult and expensive to get, and testing for which would be unnecessarily dangerous for the C-1's target market. Unfortunately, this is an absolute impossibility; even if you can break through a bureaucracy's natural tendency towards collecting more fees by having more rules to enforce, the venture will be lobbied to death by dealerships that don't want to try to sell the thing. It's going to look like what's happening to Tesla, only much, much easier for the douchebags.

Re:I feel bad for the guy, his plan is terrible. (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46515909)

Why not classify it as a motorcycle? That actually eliminates most of the stringent safety requirements for cars (and I'm sure they could volunteer for testing anyway for safety ratings, especially if they greased the right palms) It does require a special license, but frankly I suspect the primary target market, at least initially, is people who already have a motorcycle, but want something safer and more weatherproof. And for car drivers there's plenty of classes that will get you trained on the basics of operating two-wheel vehicles and prepare you to take the motorcycle licensing test - if you're terrified to drive a scooter this thing probably won't appeal much.

Re:I feel bad for the guy, his plan is terrible. (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 7 months ago | (#46516207)

While MC written exams in the US are more stringent, most states have relaxed driving test rules for three-wheeled motorcycles. It is conceivable that these gyro bikes could be grouped in the same category since they have the same self-stabilization as three wheels and require less skill in low speed maneuvering.

Brazil (3, Insightful)

wcrowe (94389) | about 7 months ago | (#46515665)

I am reminded of the scene from the movie Brazil, where the protagonist is drving this tiny little one-person vehicle on the freeway, surrounded by huge trucks on all sides.

Re:Brazil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46517829)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_KR200

heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515675)

And here I thought the ghetto was the only place you'd get cinder block kickstands for your car.

Meanwhile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515695)

...car manufacturers go from success to success with bigger and bigger SUVs.

Re:Meanwhile (1)

serialband (447336) | about 7 months ago | (#46516883)

...car manufacturers go from success to success with bigger and bigger SUVs.

Only when the gas prices go down. When it goes up, the SUV market dries up, as we've already seen happen.

Easiest way to change how they drive... (3, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | about 7 months ago | (#46515699)

The easiest way to change how they drive is to change the structure of the roads. The amount of fuel and tarmac America wastes by having stop junctions, and light controlled intersections everywhere is enormous.

Re:Easiest way to change how they drive... (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about 7 months ago | (#46516017)

The easiest way to solve traffic problems is to reduce traffic. The US (and plenty of other large countries) should focus on giving people opportunity to live close to where they work, to where their kids go to school. Building more roads, making them more efficient and/or offering public transportation only postpone the problem when you consider population growth, if those measures are all you take.

Re:Easiest way to change how they drive... (1)

Crimey McBiggles (705157) | about 7 months ago | (#46516423)

Define "easy". Last I checked, it requires a lot of public funding for road restructuring projects, whereas vehicles are sold on the open market to individuals.

Not exactly disagreeing with your point, though... there are many MANY examples of terrible traffic patterns in my town alone.

Re:Easiest way to change how they drive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46517067)

While I agree that signals can waste gas compared to alternatives, what alternatives to signals can handle the traffic at such locations and use less "tarmac"? About every streamlined alternative I've seen takes up considerable more space than an intersection with a traffic light, unless you are starting with a very large divided road. Construction of things like pedestrian crossings without signals can take quite a bit more material too, and increase the walking time depending on how many stairs are needed to get above/below the road.

Re:Easiest way to change how they drive... (1)

beelsebob (529313) | about 7 months ago | (#46517835)

While I agree that signals can waste gas compared to alternatives, what alternatives to signals can handle the traffic at such locations and use less "tarmac"?

Roundabouts.

With light controlled intersections, the roads exiting from the intersection are only used about 50% of the time. You can observe this by standing next to the road, a bit down from the junction, and observing the flow of traffic. You'll see huge blobs of traffic flow through, and then nothing for the same amount of time.

If you replace the intersections with roundabouts then you smooth out these waves, and you can half the width of the roads.

Cut out half the roads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46517903)

LET the roads get crowded. You only put off the problem by feeding the beast. To get the demand for mass transit you need to create a problem; putting it off is not a permanent solution and wastes money.

Suburban roads could be eliminated every other block. There is no reason blocks have to be as small as they are and waste so much space and upkeep fees. In a city of high traffic flow the roads there now are not enough but in the sprawl there is no reason to continue sizing things like that.

We are having troubles migrating to turnabouts because people would rather spend $600 per year per intersection (that number came from a state rep) because voters are not comfortable with turnabouts.

Then we have highway... it costs billions to add lanes to it and upkeep is not cheap since we don't properly charge commercial truckers for the massive harm they cause to the highway. We have real numbers showing that adding 1 lane to the highway does not reduce traffic because by the time the construction is completed (metro area) because the demand outstrips the rate of expansion! What is the solution? They simply talk about adding 2 or 3 lanes at a time and selectively doing a slow long term expansion. Bridges... way way too many.

City zoning is all screwed up as well. In makes all these problems worse and it takes forever to fix mistakes. Housing developments make the most idiotic layouts, almost like they get a bonus for how much pavement they can put down!

I remember AZ... backyards like prison yards (minimum security floor, medium security walls) with house to house spacing that seemed more like a hallway and while it wasn't covered, a 2-3 story house above the wall on each side made it feel pretty closed in. Tons of homeowner shit like a condo or apartment complex... I couldn't see the great benefit. Sound carried between those plastered chickenwire foamboard houses... I bet a hammer and wire cutter was easier than knocking down a door...

Changing how Americans drive? (1)

kig8472 (915313) | about 7 months ago | (#46515723)

Like the Segway right? Which was also supposed to be a major revolution of transportation. And what happened? Exactly.

Re:Changing how Americans drive? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46516149)

In fairness, for all the hype the Segway was a vehicle with extremely limited use cases: far slower and more expensive than a bicycle. Almost completely unable to handle even minor surface obstructions. The thing was a substitute for walking on smooth surfaces, nothing else. Meanwhile it saddles you with a vehicle that's too heavy to comfortably carry, and too small and expensive to safely chain to a tree. As a popular form of supplemental transportation the briefcase-sized Solowheel is far more flexible, though it does owe it's inspiration to the Segway. It's still a replacement for walking though (or jogging I suppose, speed wise), so it's competing with a "vehicle" that comes installed standard on virtually all new humans. [inventist.com]

The C1 on the other hand is a vehicle that manages to eliminate virtually all the shortcomings of a motorcycle - a vehicle for which there is already a fairly large market. I could definitely see a market for it, especially if they can eventually bring the price down substantially.

Re:Changing how Americans drive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46516553)

The product is done already. 'Done' as in never being able to do what it was claimed to do. The price won't come down substantially. That's not how anyone treats the American market. Our market is for dumping either expensive stuff, or cheap stuff. This suits our leading classes, who are rich and poor. The middle class is of course forgotten; it has no power and it hates itself anyway.

The Segway already had a useful progenitor: Roller skates. Rollerblades were a useful innovation to those, but people still haven't taken to them for commuting. So the Segway idea was dead at the design phase, because paying 100 times the money for a slightly different rollerblade experience, which Americans didn't like anyway, was an obvious loser.

By the same token, an expensive motorcycle replacement will be an equal non-starter. Those who ride 2-wheels already choose motorcycles.

Re:Changing how Americans drive? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46516879)

> Those who ride 2-wheels already choose motorcycles.
Yes they do, and I know a lot of riders who would like a motorcycle with a roll cage and weather protection, which is basically what the C1 seems to be - they even discuss specifically targeting that demographic.

As for the Segway, it did actually find a market among security guards, warehouse workers, and the like where it's numerous shortcoming are far less relevant, and the advantage of controlled speed and maneuverability allows certain employees to be far more productive. A security guard for example can travel around twice as fast as walking, dramatically reducing the number needed for a given coverage level, while being able to rapidly dismount to investigate issues on foot.

Portland? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515807)

I hear they have tasty Maine lobsters. Or are you talking about the Portland near Mount Hood and the Columbia river?

New Disease: "Myopia Nerdis" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46515849)

"Seventy-two percent of commuters drive alone, so it just made sense to cut the car in half," he said, explaining the decision to go with two wheels instead of four.

Spoken like a true nerd. I'm sure it makes sense to cut the car in half, until you realize that Americans are sociopathic morons who refuse to let that happen, until the price of gasoline rises so much that they'll be forced to seek out smaller vehicles.

Americans would be driving SUVs twice the size by now if the price of gasoline didn't rise to over $3/gal to put a stop to that nonsense.

Nerds: Not Even Once

Re:New Disease: "Myopia Nerdis" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46516853)

I agree that his reasoning is flawed, but I don't think that the majority of "Americans are sociopathic morons". Americans buy cars that don't just suit their daily commuting habits, but their weekend ones too. I don't see this vehicle holding a week's worth of groceries for even a small family. On that subject, where would you even put the children? What about the people who like to go camping, and need to pull a trailer? Or the guy who builds and finished furniture in his garage? Our cars are general purpose tool that is a compromise between all the things that we need and want to do. I would expect a vehicle like this to find a market, but I don't see it being purchased by the masses, especially with a $24k price tag.

The C1 needs to be in a movie (2)

RandCraw (1047302) | about 7 months ago | (#46515927)

Lit has to convince drivers (not bikers) that the C1 is worth the premium over a bike. But you could pour million$ into ads to promote that difference, or get a dozen road test reviews in the major car/bike mags, and *still* not get the word out.

OR... You could feature the C1 in a movie, maybe sci fi or better yet, a movie about Makers. Those visuals would go a long way, especially footage of the C1 swooping through some esses -- "Where no bike has gone before".

Maybe the C1 could be one of Tony Stark's ubertech toys in the next Iron Man flick?

The company *is* located in LA, not 10 miles from Tinseltown...

"It is code heavy.'" (1)

DoctorBonzo (2646833) | about 7 months ago | (#46515959)

As someone who's developed a lot of code containing bugs not found 'til long after it's been used, this scares the shit out of me.

Meanwhile in New Jersey and elsewhere (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 7 months ago | (#46516067)

Forces who don't give a rat's ass about cool tech or changing how Americans drive are giving a collective middle finger to Tesla. This guy had better study how things with Tesla are unfolding very carefully because he's next.

Awkward, (1)

westlake (615356) | about 7 months ago | (#46516579)

The driver in this picture looks as tense and cramped as if he were sandwiched on a high-speed expressway between two triple length truck trailers. I'm six foot tall and getting in and out of this low-rider doesn't promise to be any great joy either.

I need an all-weather commuter car for upstate New York, not a $24K scooter designed for the photo-op in San Francisco,

Go Danny, go! (4, Interesting)

FridayBob (619244) | about 7 months ago | (#46516735)

As opposed to the seemingly numerous SUV fans here, I'm apparently one of the exceptions who actually believes in this product. I heard about the C-1 in December 2012 and made my initial deposit for one only about a month later.

I love everything about this idea. If successful, it will be the cheapest plug-in electric road vehicle on the market, it will have a range second only to a Tesla and it will have the fastest charging time of all due to its small battery. The latter, along with its speed and acceleration, is made possible by its low weight, and that's largely thanks to the fact that it has only two wheels. Mileage? The C-1 will get 200 miles on a 10 KWh battery, so think about that the next time you fill'er up. In the US that's about $1.25 for a full change, or 0.625 cents a mile. And yes, it'll always be more dangerous to drive than a car, but certainly safer than any motorcycle.

Okay, you can tell from my homepage link that I'm based in the Netherlands, where cars are smaller on average than in the US, where lane splitting is legal (below a certain speed) and where gasoline prices are higher than anywhere else in the world. I also happen to have a motorcycle driver's license. But as much as I hate the fossil fuel industry (global warming, the Iraq war) and wish I could stop buying gasoline, until late 2012 there wasn't an electric vehicle available that I considered worth buying; cars like the Nissan Leaf aren't exactly cheap and don't have enough range, while the Tesla Model S is just too expensive. The Lit C-1 has both of those bases covered. And like a sports car the C-1 may not be very practical (although more so than a motorcycle), but considering what it offers in return I'm willing to put up with that.

out of touch with reality (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 7 months ago | (#46517145)

People may "commute" alone, but the primary reason for a car purchase is not the commute. We'd all be in smart cars and fiats if all that mattered was getting to work efficiently and staying out of the rain. I think they need to think a bit more about why people (ok, specifically americans) buy cars.

Maybe it's only 20% of the time I need cargo space, passenger space or the ability to mount a child's car seat. The reality is, it's that 20% of the time (moving kids around, weekend trips, runs to the hardware store) that determines what kind of car I drive.

Maybe there is an economic argument to be made for maintaining a second, extremely cheap to operate vehicle. That cost based argument fails here when you consider competing low cost options like a bicycle, electric scooter, bus or a carpool.

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