Xiaomi, China’s smartphone manufacturer which also creates an array of gadgets and accessories, on Wednesday launched a new model of electric self-balancing scooters – the Ninebot Plus. This marks the company’s ambition to bring transportation gadgets back on the roads in China.
Ninebot Plus, which is an upgraded model of the Ninebot Mini launched in 2015, will go on sale both online and offline in China for RMB 3,499 (USD 517). It is still uncertain if the product will hit markets outside of Xiaomi’s homeland.
Back in 2015, Chinese robotics firm Ninebot acquired its American rival Segway by receiving USD 80 million from Xiaomi and venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China among others to help finance the acquisition. The combined company since then holds a significant lead in market share with a vast portfolio of over 400 patents.
Thanks to the acquisition, Ninebot soon launched Ninebot Mini in 2015 and Ninebot Mini Pro earlier this year. Now, Xiaomi is introducing a new model Ninebot Plus with more upgraded functions. Unlike its predecessors, the new model comes with a remote control and can even follow you as you walk. It also comes with an optional camera that can be attached to the scooter if you ever want to record your trips.
There is a reason why Xiaomi made a product to spare commuters some effort from walking. Just take a look at the streets in Beijing. Aside from bike riders who enjoy bike-sharing services from companies like ofo or Mobike, more and more people are using a transportation device that would immediately make you stand out from the crowd — an electric self-balancing scooter. Those that are found on the streets of Beijing are mostly made by Ninebot or some copycat companies.
Now, the problem is that local governments might not be happy seeing this. Just last year, Beijing’s transportation department released an official note stating that self-balancing scooters like this are banned from the roads. Violators can be fined from a range of RMB 5 to 50. Despite the ban notice and fines, this regulation did not stop some commuters from riding these seemingly cool, state-of-the-art gadgets.
The thing is that notorious traffic jams in major cities like Beijing is one of the key reasons that companies are inspired to make new transportation devices such as Ninebot Plus. So when will city traffic control be more open to these new alternative forms of transportation to ease the congested roads?
(Top photo from mi.com)