The original Segway was a product ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it never caught on. It was expensive and faced tremendous pushback from city authorities who refused in many cases to license it for sidewalk use.
Chinese Ninebot, however, has saved the Segway from the tech litter bin by purchasing the company and raising an additional $80m from venture capitalists, which is ironic since Segway had been suing them for some time over patent infringements. Well, at least there’s a happy end to that story.
Ninebot has now resurrected the Segway with a miniaturised version that is licensed to go anywhere a wheelchair can go, which means pretty much anywhere. How did they do this? By restricting it to a maximum speed of 10 mph.
Personally, I have yet to get one, so I have to rely upon the reviews of others to give you a rundown. Overall, reviews are extremely positive. The build quality is very good and the feature set is great. The MiniPro is very similar in aspect to the Ninebot Mini but has more powerful motors and larger battery, so it supports people who weigh more than 200 lbs, which the original Ninebot did not. It has some gimmicky bells and whistles, such as an app that trains you, shows your speed, and warns you when you are approaching max cruising speed. It can lock the MiniPro as an anti-theft measure and can use the app as a remote control to bring the MiniPro to your location, if you are handicapped. Speaking of which, if you normally use a wheelchair but are able to stand, this makes a nice alternative as it keeps you at a regular height to everyone else and is far more manouevrable.
The max speed setting is a little controversial and you are highly recommended to update the MiniPRO to the latest firmware, as this has been tweaked a lot since the device first came out. The problem is that when you lean forward, the MiniPro must accelerate to return you back to an upright, 90 degree angle. If you do this when you’re at top speed, however, the MiniPro has a problem. It’s not allowed to go faster (for legal reasons), so it automatically decelerates. When this happens, you’re meant to stop leaning against but if you push things, you might fall off. The MiniPro does keep a little extra speed in reserve for such situations (and to compensate for rough terrain or bumps in the road) but you need to learn to ease back when it gets to top speed, so you don’t end up falling.
Another niggly issue is if you dismount on an incline or in a tricky environment, the MiniPRO tries to balance itself and may go wandering off on its own – which can be dangerous if it heads off into oncoming traffic. Some users have attached a dog leash to it, so they can keep it close if this should happen.
The unit weighs about 28 lbs, so you can lift it up and down stairs. It’s 10 inch pneumatic tyres does allow it to go over bumps (and very low curbs) and it performs well in mud and sand. There is a telescoping handle that allows you to walk it alongside you when you don’t want to ride it. During normal usage, it should give you a range of about 14 miles.
Users report that they can easily learn how to ride the MiniPro within 5 minutes, making it far easier to get the hang of than conventional hover boards. You use your knees to steer, which gives it more precise control and the manoeuvrability is very fluid. This looks to be one of the best personal mobility devices on the market right now.