On September 29, 2023, manufacturer Future Motion announced a voluntary recall of all models of Onewheel electric skateboards in collaboration with the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The recall encompasses more than 300,000 self-balancing electric skateboard products.
Compact and stylish, Onewheel electric skateboards, unicycles, and balance scooters, among other new types of personal transportation devices, were popular among young consumers in the past two years and could be seen everywhere on the streets. However, these personal mobility devices have significant safety risks.
The reason for this large-scale product recall is the high safety risks identified by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. According to statistics, Future Motion received dozens of accident reports involving electric skateboards from 2019 to 2021, including four fatal accidents, as well as injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, concussions, paralysis, upper body fractures, lower body fractures, and ligament damage.
This is related to the operation principle of Onewheel electric skateboards. Onewheel electric skateboards have only one wheel and use an internal self-balancing system to help users maintain balance. They provide a riding experience similar to gliding through the use of gyroscopes, accelerometers, proprietary algorithms, and a rubber wheel. The product features a direct-drive motor, and speed and direction are controlled by sensing the user’s body tilt: tilting the skateboard forward accelerates it, tilting backward decelerates or stops it, and turning only requires tilting the skateboard sideways.
Although the usage seems simple, it actually requires a high sense of balance from the user. Onewheel electric skateboard wheels have a small diameter, leading to a low coefficient of friction during braking, poor stability, and a long braking distance. If the braking performance is poor and the brakes are not responsive, accidents, especially during high-speed riding, are prone to occur, causing personal injuries to the users. The official website of Future Motion states that the product’s maximum speed can reach 30-50 kilometers per hour. Since there are no brakes or accelerators, acceleration and deceleration depend on the user’s center of gravity control. Improper operation can easily lead to accidents.
In addition, many users have reported that Onewheel skateboards suddenly stop during use, which can easily cause collision hazards. Moreover, these products rely solely on single-wheel movement, and users are at risk of severe injuries without proper protection. Evaluations by institutions also suggest that these products, when pushed beyond their limits, may cause riders to lose balance, leading to severe injuries or even death.
Amid serious safety threats and under the supervision of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, Future Motion has initiated a global recall of Onewheel electric skateboards.
In November of last year, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission began warning consumers to stop using or avoid purchasing Onewheel skateboards. By September of this year, Future Motion cooperated with the recall of products. For users who do not accept the recall, Future Motion has introduced firmware updates to enhance the product’s safety protection. The updated firmware is only applicable to Onewheel GT, Onewheel Pint X, Onewheel Pint, or Onewheel+ XR models and does not apply to the original Onewheel and Onewheel+ skateboards.
The new firmware will add a new haptic buzzing alert feature. The company stated on the recall page, ‘The haptic buzz is an alert that riders can hear and feel in situations where they might encounter conditions that could result in a crash.’ The company stated that the Onewheel product should no longer be used before the firmware update. For original Onewheel and Onewheel+ skateboards that do not provide firmware updates, Future Motion will offer a $100 credit to be used for purchasing other product models.
Due to their characteristics, Onewheel electric skateboards are often used as recreational devices and are not allowed on roads in many countries, only permitted for use on private roads. Despite strict regulations, users of these products still engage in unsafe behaviors, leading to frequent accidents and causing harm to users’ personal safety. Micro-mobility products are currently in a stage of rapid innovation, and the prerequisite for sustainable development is to provide consumers with safer ways of transportation.