Hoverboards are the self balancing scooters that came on the scene fully last year, retailers were rushing to have them in stock as celebrities and their adoring public alike made them a much desired item. By late last year, it had become one of the most wanted sports items on Amazon. A restaurant in Ibadan, Nigeria actually received critical acclaim for innovative service when their waiters began serving meals while atop hoverboards and it became a common sight in music videos from various African artistes.
By late last year however, they began drawing attention for vastly different reasons as reports started emerging that the hoverboards were catching fire. Several families outside the continent inclusive of places like London, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida had their houses burn down when the hoverboards burst into flames while charging. On Oct. 21, the London Fire Brigade warned owners to keep an eye on boards while they charge, after being called to two fires in two weeks started by “personal transporters.”
The descent of the hoverboards apparently began when a patent war was waged over the device, as three different companies claimed intellectual property status for the innovation. The war allowed a free for all atmosphere that saw importers both in the US and other places rush to make profit from the lack of legal clarity. Makeshift entrepreneurs with no idea of the technology or engineering made deals with Chinese manufacturers to make hoverboards and resell them under names like Phunkeeduck, Hover Booster, Cyboard etc.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission had announced last week Friday that it had sent a letter to manufacturers, retailers and importers stating that the self-balancing scooters must comply with standards and requirements issued by a safety consulting company, Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Spokesperson, Brooke Higginbotham said that no hoverboards currently belonging to individuals have been certified by UL. The letter stated; “Consumers risk serious injury or death if their self-balancing scooters ignite and burn,”.
For those who despite these warnings will choose to go ahead and purchase the hot item (pun very intended), they will become much harder to purchase now as major retailers like Amazon and Walmart have pulled out of stocking and selling them. Hoverboards are also being banned by major airlines; Delta (DAL), United (UAL), JetBlue (JBLU) and American (AAL) because of the fire hazard they pose. Police in London don’t permit the use of hoverboards on public streets and sidewalks and New York state has banned them altogether. Will the manufacturers pick up on the standards or will this be the end of hoverboards all together? Time will tell.