The rise and risks of hoverboards

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If you haven’t already seen it, you should definitely check it out!

Myke Tyson, the former boxing champion, took a nasty fall when trying to ride his daughter’s hoverboard. The heavyweight champion then posted a video of the accident in his twitter account. The funny home video went viral on social media and picked up over 48,000 retweets.

The video shows Mike Tyson taking a couple of spins on the self-balancing twowheeled board in what seems to be his living room. Feeling the growing confidence in controlling the gadget, he claps his hands for joy and then attempts to move forward before losing his footing and falling flat on his back with a loud thud.

Tyson’s tweet suggests that he took the fall in a good spirit, however and unfortunately there were many cases in which people hurt themselves very badly.

When did they get so popular

A quick search into Google Trends shows that the rise in popularity of these fancy gadgets is quite recent

Interest over time. Web Search. Worldwide, 2009 - present.
Google Trends - Web Search interest_ hoverboard - Worldwide, Jan 2009 - Jan 2016
Google Trends – Web Search interest hoverboard – Worldwide, Jan 2009 – Jan 2016

Most people treated the hoverboard as an expensive gadget for the rich and the famous, but recently in social media many celebrities posted photos and videos riding and enjoying them.

Chinese companies banked on the popularity and helped fuel the global craze by making cheaper versions thus reducing the price it costs to acquire one, especially for christmas as a present.

The speed and the lack of safety standards to manufacture the hoverboards by the Chinese companies has given it bad publicity – they keep exploding

Over the past several months, local fire departments around the world have reported incidents involving hoverboards catching fire.

In the UK, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) issued ‘hoverboard safety’ warnings urging people to be careful and to not to leave their devices unattended when charging. The reason is that LFB’s been called out several times last October 2015 because of fire starting from these devices in their houses.

In Louisiana (US), a couple of days just before Thanksgiving Jessica Horne bought her 12’s year old son one of those devices. But just one day after using it, Jessica’s son was charging the battery using the charger that came with the hoverboard. A moment later their house was destroyed. She said she saw flames shooting from both ends.

The reasons why so many hoverboards are catching fire are due to the lithium ion batteries in these devices reportedly catching fire. Lithium batteries are commonly used in re-chargeable devices because of their long life and ability to provide high currents very quickly. However, a too rapid discharge of a lithium battery can result in overheating and causing the device to catch fire and even explode.

In the UK, the government is already cracking down on hoverboards. The UK National Trading Standards body has now seized and reportedly destroyed 32,000 hoverboards – the vast majority of the 38,800 devices that the organisation has been tracking since it started investigating the devices in October. Furthermore, it is now illegal to ride one on public roads or pavements as the potential to cause damage to others is greatly increased.

A high profile example is the Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, who was knocked over by a hapless cameraman on a segway moments after winning the 200m world title at the World Athletics Championship last summer in Beijing, China.

Like with any new technology, it’s very difficult to say whether it’s a temporary phenomenon or it is here to stay. One thing for sure it’s causing a lot of harm to the early adopters and already the technology is forcing to government and companies to work in tandem to ensure the safety and security of all party involved.

 

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