Adam Sneed is a senior associate editor at CityLab, focusing on city life and culture. He was previously a technology reporter at Politico and a researcher at Future Tense, a project of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.
It’s not exactly the Batmobile, but it could be a fun new tool in the commuter’s utility belt.
Some people spend their time thinking about the future of transportation in cities. Others might ponder the future of transportation in circus acts. It’s possible Ford was doing both when it drew up this idea to have a car’s rear wheel double as an electric unicycle.
The automaker was awarded a patent this month for the so-marketably named “Self-propelled unicycle engagable with vehicle,” and it’s already earned comparisons to the badass motorcycle that flees the wreckage of the Batmobile in The Dark Knight.
In case it needs to be said: You’ll never feel like Batman on an electric unicycle made by Ford.
But that’s no reason to write this one off altogether. As described in the patent, a driver could park their car somewhere near their destination, use an automatic jack system to remove the rear wheel, attach the unicycle body, and be back on their way for the proverbial last mile.
In a world where this scheme caught on, it would be another option for drivers to embrace multi-modal transportation and help reduce congestion and emissions in dense areas, for example. It’s clearly not for everyone—Batman least of all—but some commuters are sure to see it as a new, fun alternative to driving and parking downtown.
Is it really more practical than, say, a typical bicycle? Ford says yes, for three reasons. First, it saves valuable space that a typical bike would fill inside a small car. It’s also designed to be safer in the car cabin, where a bike could be a dangerous projectile in a collision. And unlike an external bike rack, it won’t mess with a car’s aerodynamics and fuel economy.
But if you love this idea, it’s way too soon to get your hopes up, as Gizmodo points out. Just because Ford has a patent doesn’t mean you’ll ever see it at the dealership. The best-case scenario, at this point, is that it’ll become a concept car at auto shows, stoking commuter imaginations before being relegated to lists of the best cars that never were.
H/t The Verge.