Terra's A4000i uses an integrated iPhone cradle to augment dashboard functions, provide battery life and navigation information and to gather ‘big data' for creating new owner-focused services.
The Terra Motors A4000i electric scooter. Photo:AFP
In-car entertainment, telematics and infotainment are by no means new subjects and neither is the growing need to integrate safe smartphone use into consumer vehicles; however, what makes Terra Motors' latest offering different is that it puts the iPhone front and center.
When docked between the handlebars, the phone will tell the rider how much power the bike is using at any given moment, the remaining charge left on the battery, plus data and information such as traffic news and navigation.
But that's just the start. As well as expanding the scooter's dashboard capabilities, when docked, the phone is also collecting data and pushing it to the cloud. Terra hopes that this data can be used to develop new products and services, from tailor-made and targeted advertising to engineering and mechanical improvements on later iterations of the scooter.
To achieve this, location data will be key and, while there has been a large focus on using cars to collect such data, Terra points out that in Asia the most popular means of transport is still two, rather than four wheels, (Asia makes up 80% of the world's motorbike market) even in its home country of Japan. With Apple, Google and a host of third-party developers fighting for the car dashboard, the bicycle, scooter and motorbike are being unfairly ignored.
The company also points to the fact that with the exception of established markets such as Japan and South Korea, the smartphone is still a comparatively new device across much of the region and as a result, phone-makers and app makers need more location-based information in order to shape their products for these emerging consumers. Still, the decision to build the scooter's data-gathering capabilities around the premium iPhone rather than the Android platform may make it harder to collect large amounts of data. However, Terra points out that the scooter will work with older iPhones including the 3GS rather than just the company's current flagship iPhone 5 handset.
Away from data collection, the A4000i is designed to carry a rider and passenger in comfort even over the bumpiest of roads and offers a range of 65km between charges and a top speed of 65km/h.
Other neat features include a removable battery pack which can be charged at home while the bike is parked outside, or that can be swapped out for a spare, fully charged replacement. Charging takes 4.5 hours.
Terra will be selling the A4000i in its native Japan for Yen450,000 (about $4500) a price that will enable it to compete directly with traditionally powered scooters. The company has set itself the goal of selling 100,000 units by 2015 and hopes to offer the scooter in China too but currently has no clear plans to offer the vehicle any further afield.