Invent the next great innovation in transportation technology, and you'll be living in a house made of platinum. The problem, of course, is that your innovation has to actually, you know, work. And not be utterly ridiculous.
For many decades, inventors have completely failed both of those criteria.
The design of a tricycle seems to be pretty good at keeping toddlers from falling off, so one would assume that it's a fairly stable system. So why haven't we seen more three wheeled vehicles made for adults, who are capable of spending way more money on ridiculous things?
Well for starters, here is the world's top selling three-wheeled vehicle, the Reliant Robin.
We're not engineers over here, but we're going to go out on a limb and say that taking a corner with just one wheel to balance all the weight on the front of your car ups the likelihood of tipping over and rolling down the street from "possible" to "guaranteed." And we're thinking the odds get worse the faster you go. Basically you can only drive the Robin slowly and in a straight line, so it's best not to purchase one unless all of your errands are directly in front of you and are never an emergency.
Another noteworthy attempt is the Sinclair C5, which we have to give credit to for sticking more closely to the classic tricycle in design.
The Sinclair is best described by the Sinclair C5: The Site for Sinclair C5 Enthusiasts Worldwide, which states, "The Sinclair C5 was a commercial disaster." This is the first line on the group's website after the name of the website itself. We can't imagine why.
Well, there's the fact that your body is exposed and that your head winds up right around the area where the grill of an SUV would be, so if you forget to check your blind spot and merge into a Chevy Suburban your skull might be torn from your shoulders. But other than that...
Though we can't mock it too hard, because apparently this open-vehicle concept is the future. Just look at...
Toyota has grown into the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, so clearly the only market segment left to conquer is that of the future space wheelchair. From top to bottom we give you the i-unit, the i-swing and the i-REAL.
"The i-unit: Looking like the future has never been this not worth it."
"The i-Swing: You could probably pick up a very specific type of chick in this."
"The i-REAL: You'll wish your back was broken."
The i-REAL was slated for sale this year. As these products demonstrate, Toyota is gallantly ignoring all of the handicap ramps, chair lifts, curb lips and parking spaces in the world to operate under the assumption that motorized chairs are both practical and ideal.
Unfortunately for Toyota, the i-REAL has virtually no selling points. It's, what, a more comfortable Segway? A slow motorcycle that won't impress women? One of the only vehicles ever made that offers zero frontal protection for the driver?
Even its own product page can't really state anything other than "it exists."
It does have an embedded social networking system, allowing you to communicate with other i-REALs in the vicinity, but unless you're trying to coordinate a bank robbery with a group of lazy strangers we can't envision this ever being useful. And its maximum speed is only 20 mph, so really having a cellphone in your car provides pretty much the same exact experience as owning an i-REAL, only the car is infinitely more useful.
It looks like the ejection seat from the car we actually want.
Really, the whole concept of odd-numbered wheels just seems to turn people off. Of course, the most ridiculous expression of this idea is...
Here's the Audi Snook, a state-of-the-art unicycle most likely invented by Dr. Wiley.
Oh yeah, that'll stand up to a mini-van.
That is a legitimate concept from Audi that's actually won an award, although so far none are in production. We're sure it has some kind of complex balancing system on board and that a bunch of children can't just come up and tip you over at a stop light. But even then, a collision between two Snooks would be hilarious.
Way cooler looking is the Unocycle.
Whitesnake is playing in his mind
Sadly, it has only one button and no throttle or brakes. In fact, it works just like a Segway, so although it looks like it can go fast, it maxes out at about 15 mph. And yes, you do look more ridiculous going slow when you're on a vehicle that looks like it was designed for death racing in the year 2050.
What isn't disappointing is the dynasphere, a giant hamster ball they tried to develop back in the 30s.
Understandably, this never took off -- the automobiles being manufactured at the same time were way more practical and functional and didn't require you to lean out the side like Ace Ventura to make a sharp turn, so the dynasphere lost out like Beta to VHS. Oh, what could have been.
Think of how much better this scene would have been in a dynasphere.
Not all old-school transportation ideas were this awesome, though. Just look at...
What's so great about planes? Well, they can travel pretty much wherever they please and they're the fastest mode of civilian transportation available to humans as of 2010. But, they can be quite expensive to ride. What about trains? What's so good about trains? Well, they have to stick to a very specific path, and most aren't particularly fast, but they're comparatively cheap to travel on. So obviously, the only solution here is to merge the two.
Actually, the real-world model was slightly less whimsical but every bit as steampunk.
The railplane was, in essence, a monorail powered by propellers. See, back in the 1930s, a plane was the fastest vehicle around, and all of them had propellers. By that token, someone figured that if you put a propeller on a train, it would go faster, bravely ignoring the whole weight distribution thing involved with aeronautical engineering. The idea was to build rails above regular train tracks so the railplane could travel over top of the standard steam-powered locomotives.
The other problem was that the railplane didn't actually go faster at all, and in fact was pretty goddamn slow. Also, the steam generated by the trains running underneath it would make it shake around like a Yahtzee cup. This isn't even mentioning the safety hazard of having a large four-bladed propeller come roaring through a crowded platform. The project went bankrupt in 1937.
Nothing says "safe" like giant spinning propellers and packed crowds of commuters.