Rolling into work on a ‘bowling ball’ transport device

Rolling into work on a ‘bowling ball’ transport device
Thomas O’Connell, founder, Moby Products, with Business Minister Heather Humphreys and Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland's annual start-up showcase event.

An Irish company is paving the way for a big innovation in the way we get to work, writes Ruth Doris.

Its ‘Jyroball’ is designed for leisure and short commutes. It can bridge the gap between train or bus and workplace or allow commuters to avail of park-and-ride carparks with the last stage of the journey covered by the micro-mobility device.

The spherical vehicle with retractable footplates, which Forbes has described as a “winged bowling ball” can travel at speeds of up to 20kp/h with a range of 24km.

Thomas O’Connell, founder of Moby, which has spent four years developing the micro-mobility product, said it offers a flexible and affordable way to get around cities while reducing parking costs, as well as solving the wider problems of traffic congestion and pollution.

The Jyroball is light and compact at 9kg, and can be easily be carried and placed under a seat on bus or train.

However, legislation around the devices is stillunclear — a common situation where the law hasn’t caught up with technology, Mr O’Connell said.

However, while it’s a topical issue, Ireland and the UK are lagging behind others such as the US and Scandinavia which have had legislation in place for years.

Germany changed its laws last month to accommodate the new types of vehicles, and Mr O’Connell expects other European countries to follow suit. Regulations in Ireland lie in a grey area.

The vehicles fit somewhere between mechanically-propelled vehicles andpedal-assisted vehicles.

In other countries, electric scooters and other similar devices, with maximum speeds of 25km/h, aretreated as a bicycle whether electrically-powered orassistance, and are allowed on roads and cycle paths.

The founder and former chief executive of Yvolution, known for its popular Fliker scooter, is an enthusiast for micro-mobility innovation.

He travels to work andmeetings by electric scooter or unicycle.

“I get around Dublin very quickly. I can save a lot of money on taxis, and I save a lot of time as well.”

Having teamed up with Marc Simeray, inventor of the self-balancing unicycle on his latest enterprise, Mr O’Connell said Moby aims to disrupt personal transportation. He said micro-mobility is the future of getting around cities.

“Micro-mobility solvesthe big problems of traffic congestion and parking in cities as well as meetingenvironmental targets.”

The micro-mobility area encompasses electrically-powered scooters, bikes,unicycles, skateboards and has been made possible by the development in thelithium battery over the past 20 years. He said that urban futurists predict that getting around cities will incorporate some form of public transport plus a micro-mobility device. However, the challenge will be toaccommodate that.

“The buses and trains will have to get much bigger, or the devices are going to have to get much smaller. Howdo you create the ultimate product that you can use for your last mile?”

Self-balancing, the Jyroball uses lean-forward acceleration, similar to the technology used by the Segway. It has a shorter learning curve than the unicycle and better manoeuvrability than a hoverboard, Mr O’Connell said.

Speaking about his goals for Moby to be a brand leader, Mr O’Connell said there is a real opportunity. “There’s no Dyson or Tesla of this category.”

Moby plans to sell itsproducts directly to theconsumers with potential plans to go to retailers at a later stage. The Jyroball is priced at €402.

It is anticipated it willretail at €799, when shipping of orders begins in October. Another product indevelopment, the YX One, is aimed at the extreme sports market.

Meantime, Mr O’Connell tries out prototypes in the Phoenix Park at the weekends. He says the YX One, which he compares to a “mountain bike of electric skateboards,” is “quite a head-turner”.

Unlike a skateboard which needs a smooth surface, the YX One can be used on trails and off-road terrain.

Mr O’Connell received funding from EnterpriseIreland this year. Currently taking part in Google’s Adopt a Startup, the company is also gearing up for the launch of the YX One.

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