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This One-Wheeler Really Worked
Imagine a motorized unicycle, but one where the operator sits behind the wheel. Engineer Charles Taylor not only imagined it, he built several prototypes. His one wheeler was designed to turn on a dime. It could travel mountain trails too narrow or terrain too rough for two or four wheeled vehicles.
"Charles Taylor deserves tremendous credit for designing and building these machines," says Oliver O'Reilly, a University of California at Berkeley researcher and instructor. "To conceive and build a machine like this is amazing."
Taylor began work on his idea in 1939 and continued work into the 1960's when he received a patent. He never took his idea to production stage, and it never became widely known. Only 100 or so parts of his prototypes remain, along with some photos and movies of working units. Taylor died in 1997, leaving behind many unanswered questions.
Today, O'Reilly and a group of four students are trying to figure out the physics and engineering behind the vehicle. He stumbled across the story thanks to a student.
"Taylor's grand nephew Tony Urry showed me a film of the vehicle," explains O'Reilly. "Mary Urry, Tony's aunt and Taylor's daughter, gave me drawings, patents and other information."
O'Reilly has established a website with much of the information, drawings and pictures as well as the movies. It includes detailed models of the vehicle and how it worked. It also has extensive information on Taylor, a very successful engineer who also held patents in ceramics and automatic transmissions. Unfortunately, major gaps remain as to how the vehicle worked, due to missing parts and information.
According to O'Reilly, the vehicle uses two gyroscopes for steering and stabilization. A torque reaction mechanism is thought to have adjusted for forward and reverse momentum at acceleration and braking.
Taylor describes the 5-ft. wheel as being driven by a chainsaw engine in one prototype with a second chainsaw engine powering the gyroscopes. In a later prototype, a Ford Falcon engine provided power, including electricity to a motor on the gyroscopes.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Professor Oliver M. O'Reilly, 6137 Etcheverry Hall, Mailstop 1740, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif. 94720 (ph 510 642-0877; oreilly@me.berkeley.edu; www.me.berkeley.edu/one_ wheel_vehicle).

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2008 - Volume #32, Issue #6