Technology TED Talks

9 transportation devices that could make your commute far more fun

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A TED2013 attendee takes a ride on a Boosted Board. Photo: Michael Brands

When engineering grad students Sanjay Dastoor, John Ulmen and Matthew Tran met at Stanford University, they lamented the fact that there was no good way to get around campus. And so, they invented one: a longboard skateboard fashioned with an electric motor.

Sanjay Dastoor: A skateboard, with a boost Sanjay Dastoor: A skateboard, with a boost In today’s talk, given at TED2013, the three give demo their Boosted Boards — which charge off a wall outlet, run for 1,000 kilometers on a dollar’s worth of electricity and are powerful enough to go up the famous hills of San Francisco at 10 miles per hour. They are small enough to be carried in hand and have a battery range of six miles.

“That covers half of the car trips in U.S. alone,” explains Dastoor.

It’s a fascinating concept — one that would make any skateboard-enthusiast a happy commuter. To see the boards in action, watch this high-energy talk. And below, see several more unusual vehicles that could someday greatly improve the morning commute.

HirikoA car that folds
Mentioned in Kent Larson’s TEDx Talk “Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city,” the Hiriko is a tiny two-person vehicle that folds in order to minimize its parking footprint. Three of these small vehicles can fit into one traditional parking space — which would greatly alleviate one of the biggest hassles of car ownership. As the Hiriko website explains, these vehicles are 100% electric and maneuver by spinning — which is just really cool.

NCycleAn electric bike with handlebars that become a lock
Several electric bicycles are already on the market, even though they aren’t legal in every city. However, the nCycle is a particularly stylish and smart approach to the concept, which design blog Core77 brought to our attention. Designed with its battery inside a space-age frame, it’s meant to be both sturdy and lightweight. It’s handlebars morph into a lock and it has speakers in the back headlights.

UnicyclesA motorcycle meets a unicycle
Another design created for urban commuters, the RYNO (left) is a singe-wheel scooter that looks like something a gang in a sci-fi film would ride. Expected to go into production this year, this vehicle runs on a battery that takes an hour and a half to charge, and lets riders go, go, go for about 20 miles, according to This vehicle self-balances, but if you want the security of a second wheel — the BMW Halbo (right) may be the vehicle for you.

A swing for the subway
A group of Washington D.C. Metro riders caused quite a stir when they posted this video of their “Metro Swing” on Vimeo in 2011. The swing attaches to the metal bars of the Metro, and allows anyone to make their own seat and — if there’s room — to channel their inner 5-year-old by swinging. Though it appears to be farce, they should consider manufacturing it.

Wheel-RiderA gyroscopic wheel for one
The Yamaha Wheel Rider looks like it could be a flying saucer. Only instead of moving through the air on its flat face, it rolls along the road on its edge, a la a tire. As The New Ecologist shares, this concept vehicle was designed by Yuji Fujimura and the fin in the back contains its turn signals. An even more beautiful version of a similar idea — Sanu K R’s personal transport system, which the designer tells Gizmag drives via a joystick and stays upright thanks to gyroscopic sensors.

JetLevThe personal jetpack
It’s not at all a cheap option — it costs a reported $100,000. But in September of 2012, The Daily Mail told the tale of a British businessman who used a jetpack to travel 40 miles up the Thames to work. This man imported his jetpack from manufacturer JetLev. And this futuristic turn reminds us of Yves Rossy’s TED Talk, “Flying with the Jetman.”


And a Boosted Boards bonus shot: Jim Carrey tests out the board at TED2013. This shot was snapped by Tony Hawk who wrote on Instagram, “Came to #TED2013 for @amandapalmer, stayed to see Jim Carrey ride an electric skateboard (aka@boostedboards). My life is [still] weird.”