Non-parents may not believe it, but pushing a pram around can be a fairly strenuous task, especially when the train gets rough. It’s a full body workout to push two kids under four in my old Uppababy Vista, which weighed the same as an iceberg and had the turning circle of the Titanic. To remedy this, Canadian startup GlüxKind has developed an electrically-assisted stroller that’ll make pushing easier, and can even drive itself, albeit only when your kid isn’t on board.
The GlüxKind Ella is the brainchild of Anne Hunger and Kevin Huang, a couple who were less than whelmed when looking for a stroller for their own daughter. They decided to build their own device by strapping an electric skateboard to a regular stroller, and started developing their product from there. The device has three modes, the first of which is to add electric assist to the wheels as you’re pushing it around.
Trying this in an admittedly limited demo at CES, it feels very much like the sort of power boost you get with an e-bike. You still have to push this thing around, but you only have to make a fairly meager level of effort before the motor kicks in and helps you out. As well as easier forward motion, you’ll also find turning to be a lot snappier than you may expect, useful too when you’re trying to maneuver your rugrat in tight spaces. It’ll also prove useful when going uphill, or if you’re carrying lots of groceries in Ella’s surprisingly large cargo space.
I’m told that the battery will last for around eight hours of mixed use, and you’ll need to charge it at the end of every day, more or les.
You can also set the pram to rock your baby to sleep, moving backwards and forwards by about a foot. This, I’m sure, will be a godsend to parents who are otherwise praying for divine intervention at 3am as their precious child refuses to sleep. I’m aware that there are some safety caveats about using such a feature on a regular basis, but being able to call on the feature in a pinch will surely be an instant-sell to some harangued parents.
The last mode, and the most eye-catching, is self-driving, where the stroller will drive ahead of you by a couple of feet. It’ll maintain power when going up hill, and brake so it stays close to you when you’re going down the other side. But crucially, the system is designed to not work if you put your kid in the seat and expect the pram to do all of the work. A weight sensor in the bassinet and stroller chair will block the function if it detects the presence of a child.
A product like this is, understandably, going to be at the higher end of the price scale, and when it hits Kickstarter this spring, the first 100 units will set you back $3,800. Once that early bird special is done with, the price is likely to climb a little higher, but for that you’ll also get built-in GPS so you can track where your pram is if you’ve asked friends and family to babysit. GlüxKind also has plans to build out a community feature to find and connect like-minded parents — the sort of whom are also prepared to spend north of four grand on a self-driving stroller.