Charles Taylor’s One Wheel Vehicles

Charles Taylor on his one wheel vehicle

Charles Taylor on his one wheel vehicle

Got a note the other day pointing to a website about Charles F. Taylor and his efforts to build a one wheel vehicle. When you think one wheel, you probably picture monowheels, where the operator sits inside the wheel, but Taylor was on a different path altogether, his wheel was centered within a platform that carried the driver, engine, steering and everything else. It isn't immediately apparent how it operates, or even if it would, but there's a lengthy video showing progress over about 10 years, from the earliest efforts to a far more advanced version and surprisingly enough, it actually works.

The vehicle utilized two gyroscopes, one, with rotating mass mounted vertically, was used for steering and controlling lateral stability. The second, mounted horizontally, controlled longitudinal stability. There was also a weighted balance sensor which sent signals to an air blower, varying the shutter opening, regulating air pressure to assist in pitch control.

There is also a torque reaction mechanism which works to counter forces during acceleration and deceleration, I'm still trying to figure that one out and it looks like the folks developing the working models are a little unclear on the details themselves.

One potential version of the Taylor one wheel vehicle

One potential version of the Taylor one wheel vehicle

Taylor's aim, according to the 1964 patent application, was to build a vehicle for off road use, able to traverse rugged terrain better than a 4 wheeled vehicle or even a motorcycle. Of course, motorcycles in Taylor's time frame, the 1950s and 1960s, were nowhere near as capable as off road bikes of today, but what's important here is the creativity, ingenuity and motivation displayed by Charles Taylor who built these amazing vehicles without any computer assistance, either in the design process or in the actual function of the vehicle itself, all of the steering and balance are electro-mechanical. That's impressive!

Surviving parts of the Taylor one wheel vehicle

Surviving parts of the Taylor one wheel vehicle - Hemmings Auto Blog photo

Last year, Hemmings Auto blog had a couple of posts on this vehicle and the son of Charles Taylor sent them some photos of a few surviving pieces of Taylor's vehicles, the photo above is one. According to that post, his son would like to see someone who could reassemble the pieces and get the whole thing working again, but I think a lot of us would like to see that happen. An amazing piece of work.

Thanks for the great tip, Paul!

Link: Univ. of California Berkeley
Link: video of one wheeler in action

Link: Hemmings Auto Blog
Related: Monowheels and Dicycles

Comments

  1. says

    Wow.

    The first one really did seem like a “model” but the two seater later in the clip was stable, smooth and looked like a blast to ride (drive? motate?). Like a sidecar rig with the big center wheel out of one of those Kenner SSP cars with the ripcord from the 70s.

    Love to try an IBA Saddlesore on one of those.

  2. Miles says

    That torque arm is amazing, it looks like the chassis is slung under the pivot point, and the action of the torque arm moves the effective fulcrum, thus not requiring any “movable ballast”, or actually any ballast, unlike most mono-wheel designs.

    Also this design automatically provides self balancing of acceleration forces by forcing the fulcrum to be attached to the torque effect.

    Go just before the halfway point to see the torque arm in action as it hits a piece of lumber in the road.

    Amazing. Very cool. And refreshing to think that not everything needs to (or can) be done in software by computers, as the people behind the Segway would have you believe.

  3. B*A*M*F says

    Those are fantastic! I want the second one with the tractor wheel.

    It’s amazing that this is all done mechanically, but think about what this fellow could have done with a little modern computer hardware and software as well.

  4. Tin Man 2 says

    Simply amazzzzing, A mechanical genious. Dont know if it could be usefull but what a design exercise.

  5. todd says

    I would get terrible motion sickness from piloting that thing. It’s real neat.

    -todd

  6. says

    Really cool concept and made all the cooler knowing he did it without any thing but his imagination and a whole ton of work and prototypes.

  7. tim says

    can someone explain in words of one syllable how it turns?

    I can see that it does, and he twirls the steering wheel, but the road wheel stays central in the, er, chassis? frame?

    I’m a simple country boy, obviously.

  8. Paul says

    Tim, the vertical gyroscope does the steering. When the steering wheel is turned it attempts to turn the gyroscope, since the gyro resists turning, the whole chassis turns instead.

    Paul M.

  9. kneeslider says

    Dan, right below the post is a whole series of links. Try the one that says: video of one wheeler in action.

  10. Greybeard says

    I haven’t seen the video but I do hope he mounted a fender on that.
    Bugs in your teeth would be the least of your worries!

  11. FREEMAN says

    That two seater model in the later part of the video is incredible. Beautiful machine.

  12. GenWaylaid says

    The suspension linkage is especially ingenious. It looks like it transfers torque transients from the wheel directly to the gyroscope so they don’t affect the chassis. One could get even better acceleration/braking capability by adding a simple feedback circuit to spin the gyroscope up or down to keep the chassis level when the suspension hits its limits.

    Skid steering by turning a gyroscope is also mighty clever. In theory that machine should have a zero turning radius. I don’t know how well that steering gyro would scale up to a fully enclosed vehicle, though.

    When I see the two-seater running down the road, I keep thinking of adding some armor and a pair of miniguns. That could be the start of a very interesting (amphibious?) armored car.

  13. Den says

    I am amazed at this machine, the engineering is incredible. But to me it feels like the answer to a question that only Mr Taylor asked, kind of like a Rube Goldberg machine or those Chindogu things from Japan.

    What do I know, I thought the Segway was a stupid idea that no one would want (in fact I still do!).

    Those things said; it is people who imagine and invent that further civilisation, and I think that it is an incredible achievement.

  14. C.P.T.L. says

    There are so many things done by mankind to no purpose, and so many more done to negative, ugly and wasteful purpose that, given the wonderous, fantastic and altogether innocent nature of a vehicle like this, I say, we need this thing!

    And really, why? Because it will cause everyone who sees one to say, “wow!” Healthy, smile-inducing, inspiring wows by the millions. I maintain that’s reason enough.

  15. Ed says

    I’ve watched the video several times and I still get goosebumps! It looks like sorcery! I MUST build one of my own! I’m putting together my list of materials right now.
    Lets see- 12 ft aluminum flat bottom boat hull for a chassis platform, (amphibious?) Ford 8-N tractor wheel, 1 liter 3cyl Geo Metro engine for power, hydrostatic transmission to turn main wheel (MUCH simpler than belts/shafts/chains/gears ect.) Diesel truck flywheels for gyro steering/stabilizers, air compressor to power air turbine motors( to spin gyros), air suspension and fast-acting air piston servo for torque reaction control, 2 seats,”joystick” controls. Hmmmm.

  16. Tiny says

    As the founding and sanctioning body of unimotorycle drag racing; we are blown away by this guy. According to the rules of our race; if during a race, any part of the ‘beast’ touches forward of the axle, the run is disqualified. We currently drag race in the style of one wheeled controlled wheelies; the crashes can be rather dramatic.
    Our President, Sidecar Willy, founding father of our hot international motor sport, recently found Charles F. Taylor and his one wheeled machines on the internet . . . he is intrigued . . .

    Tiny, Vice President & Rocket Class World Record Holder
    American National Unimotorcyclists Society, Inc. (A.N.U.S.)

  17. Ian Milion says

    I was really astonished for your thesaurus of knowledge you have
    included.

    I need a long time to see and understand the various items and
    subjects you are dealing.

    Congatulations
    Ian

  18. David Braymer says

    My name is David –closing in on 60–googled something totally different (messerschmitt 200) and “fell” into this area of space. Amazing-I have thoughts and ideas along the same lines-how big and how many rpm is the gyro—some think and some do–I’m moving toward the doing side.