In recent months, a self-balancing motorized board, called "hoverboard", has become quite popular in the US and in a number of other countries including Hong Kong. Such device, fitted with two wheels, one at each end of a narrow board, is powered by a rechargeable battery and can move with a person riding it at a speed of 15 km or more per hour. As this gadget can be purchased online and is available at some local shops, it is envisaged that it would become more and more popular in Hong Kong in the months to come. We have already spotted a few persons riding such boards on campus.
However, the rising interest and popularity of these hoverboards have also raised a number of safety as well as legal concerns.
1. Fire Safety
In November 2015, a flat at Choi Hung was destroyed by a fire which was caused by charging a hoverboard. A number of similar fire incidents have also been reported in the US and other countries. In some cases, the hoverboards just burst into flame suddenly when being operated. This may be due to the lack of controls on the safety standards when designing and manufacturing the hoverboards, especially those cheaply made counterfeits.
2. User Safety
Riding these self-balancing hoverboards and moving around may be fun, but one has to prepare for sudden fall and other safety consequences. Riding such devices demands very good balancing skill, and there is no restrainer or protection for anyone riding it. As these devices can move up to a speed of 15 km or more per hour, a tiny hump or depression on the ground surface can easily cause the rider to lose balance and fall down. This could easily result in serious injuries or even fatalities. Wearing protective gear like safety helmet, knee and elbow protectors may help a bit but the risk of injuries may still be very high when the rider falls at high speed. A number of these accidents have actually been reported in many countries.
3. Pedestrian Safety
Hoverboard moving at high speed in public areas poses safety risk to pedestrians who may be easily hit and injured by such device.
Riding these hoverboards on streets and pedestrian walkways are illegal in many countries like the US and UK, although it has been reported that legislators in some of those countries are trying to figure out how to regulate them.
In Hong Kong, the Transport Department has already clarified that this kind of devices are classified as"motor vehicles" that must be registered and licensed and indicated that they are not going to issue any licenses for the hoverboards, which are considered a threat to road safety. Under the law, a driver of an unlicensed vehicle is liable to monetary fine and imprisonment term. The same legal requirements also apply to private roads like those on university campuses. One needs to bear the legal consequences when riding these devices in public areas.