Monday

Did GM en-v someone else's invention?

Voted the most futuristic product at the Consumer Electronics Show for 2011 is the GM en-v, variously described as a scooter-car and a Segway car of sorts.

Only problem is, it looks awfully familiar.

General Motors doesn't say much about it other than the idea is likely to be a decade away from reality - maybe - and it looks like Asia will be its prime market target. And it comes from the Segway concept that was all the rage just a few years ago when it was announced, and which still can be found in the hallways of some airports, mounted by security guards.

But in reality, GM's en-v looks like it is only a step up from something an 18 year old Canadian named Ben Gulak created several years back, called the Uno. His story, fresh from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the New York Times in 2008. It made the cover of Popular Sciene that year as one of the top inventions of the year.

Gulak's Uno was actually a motorbike with two wheels mounted next to each other instead of one behind the other, as a conventional motorcycle would be. From the side it looks like one wheel - sort of a motorized unicycle. With his invention though, just as with the Segway, your bike's movement was controlled by your body movement, using gyroscopic tenchology like the Segway's. Perhaps like GM (?), Gulak's idea came after seeing motorbikes in China crowding the streets and spewing smog everywhere.

My brother Larry first spotted the Gulak Uno story a couple of years ago and emailed me about it. Now, in 2011, you have to wonder if GM hired Gulak (after all, he's been to MIT) or if they bought his idea or if they just "adopted" it for themself. After all, it looks like they just put a roof on it and spread the wheels a little and called it their own.

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