By ELISABETH DELLAMONICA
It is officially 2016, and while we are not driving flying cars or living underwater, there is one futuristic item that is all the rage, the hoverboard. Although they lack the ability to actually hover, and merely roll along the ground, this new technology is spreading. Surely you’ve seen them, it’s possible you’ve tried one, and maybe there was even one waiting for you under the Christmas tree. When they first arrived on the market, hoverboards were seen as a novelty item; something that could be purchased for entertainment in the home, but that was definitely not necessary for actual travel. However, slowly but surely these gadgets have become a socially acceptable form of transportation.
“Hoverboard through any College Campus” That slogan can be found on hovershop.com, one of the leading hoverboard retailers. The site claims that with the use of a hoverboard, which travels up to twelve miles per hour, you’ll be getting to class early even if you don’t wake up on time. It advertises the fact that hoverboards are less of a hassle than a skateboard or bike, easy to carry into class or a dorm, and small enough to be stored effortlessly. The site also states that the battery of a hoverboard will last up to twenty miles, and that after plugging it in for one hour, you will be back with a full charge. It all sounds so simple and convenient, but the features don’t end there.
Some hoverboard brands across the country have been experiencing serious malfunctions. There were twelve reported incidents in the U.S. where hoverboards caught fire, destroying entire bedrooms and homes, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. That was, as of Dec. 2015, and, “In January, the CPCS updated that number to at least 40 reports of hoverboard fires in 19 states,” as reported by CNET.com.
As stated on nbcnews.com, a man in Chappaqua, New York filed a lawsuit after his Swagway hoverboard exploded while charging in his home. A family in Louisiana lost their house after their 12-year-old son’s Fit Turbo hoverboard bursted into flames, according to ABC News. Hoverboards are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which have been deemed the culprits of the fires and explosions that have been happening in homes across the nation, and even internationally. CNET.com also reports that there is no particular brand to avoid as most hoverboards on the market come from thousands of interchangeable factories in China. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the hoverboard you purchase will not explode.
The danger doesn’t end there. “Some of these injuries have been serious, including concussions, fractures, contusions/abrasions, and internal organ injuries,” according to US Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Elliot Kaye. When the charge runs out, hoverboards have been known to stop unexpectedly, causing users to crash or fall.
While bikes and longboards are common forms of transportation around our campus, more and more students are using hoverboards to travel to and from classes. Seeing that we at UT do not have an incredibly large campus, some students find this completely unnecessary. “I think the technology is cool, like it’s a cool concept, but I think it’s really stupid that kids have them on campus,” said Ellie Lundgren, a junior Finance major. “Our campus is only ten minutes across the whole entire thing, you can’t just walk yourself across campus?”
So far, at least twenty college campuses across the United States have banned hoverboards as of Jan. 10, according to the AP. UT’s campus safety office employees were unsure of any actions being taken to do such, but said they were aware of the dangers of hoverboards.
Until recently, students have been unaware of the status of hoverboards on campus. “I haven’t heard anything of them being banned,” stated Christi Breinlinger, the Student Assistant Coordinator of Vaughn Center and the Barrymore Hotel. “Personally, they seem too futuristic to me! And I think walking promotes exercise.”
Other students simply couldn’t care less. “I don’t have an opinion. I don’t really care,” said Kelsey Regan, a junior majoring in Advertising and Public Relations. “I mean, if you’re lazy enough to get one, then get one. But, it takes up most of the sidewalk so that’s annoying.”
However, things are about to change. “The Office of Residence Life has recently reviewed the significant safety concerns and incidents on other college campuses regarding hoverboard usage and storage,” says Stephanie Russell Krebs, Dean of Students. “Effective Fall 2016, hoverboards will not be permitted in the residence halls. They will be added into the Campus Living Policies as a prohibited item for residential students over the summer.”
Between the news across the country and the general opinions across campus, the overall attitude toward hoverboards appears negative. Are they the transportation of the future or a fire waiting to start? It’s up to you.