We got to demo the latest in high-tech luggage.
Traveling just got easier—or worse—depending on how you feel about Modobag.
Earlier this week, the Chicago-based travel startup unveiled the world’s first rideable motorized suitcase. The new line officially launches in January, when Modobag plans to begin delivering the orders currently being taken via crowdfunding site Indiegogo. In its first week, the company has raised nearly $200,000 from thrill-seeking travelers. “We’re going to change the way the world travels,” says founder Kevin O’Donnell, who stopped by Fortune’s editorial offices yesterday to offer a free test drive. I was surprised by a few things, both good and bad. Here’s what I learned:
It’s surprisingly fast
There are two speed settings: 5 mph for indoors and 8 mph for outdoors, which can seem very fast when you’re that low to the ground. The strong hand brake can make it stop on a dime, and the thumb-operated accelerator lever gives you enough torque for a quick jolt—I enjoyed racing through Fortune’s halls, much to the chagrin of my hardworking colleagues in the newsroom. You can also make a hairpin turn, but doing it at 5 mph will knock you off balance and onto the ground (trust me on this).
It’s small but strong
The storage capacity for the introductory suitcase is roughly 2,000 cubic inches, similar in size to an overnight bag, yet it supports riders who weigh up to 260 pounds. The company says it plans to introduce larger bags in the coming year, including checked-luggage sizes with larger storage space.
The 19-pound carry-on can help you ride from curbside to gate, but those 19 pounds restrict what you can pack. Baggage weight limits and fees vary by airline, but most require additional fees for bags over 50 pounds.
You can use it to charge your phone
The suitcase’s lithium battery, which has already been approved by the TSA and FAA, has two USB outlets so you can also use it to charge two devices at once. A full charge will carry a 180-pound traveler for eight miles before it runs out of juice. For an additional $69, you can also get a GPS tracker to know where your bag is at all times.
It’s very expensive
Early funders can buy a limited number of bags at $995 a piece, but when they go on sale next year the Modobag will be priced at $1,495—a very steep price for a high tech suitcase.
Judging by the popularity of the company’s marketing video, which immediately went viral and has been viewed 75 million times on Facebook in the first seven days, there’s definitely an interest for it. The Modobag could prove to be just a trendy fad or a surprising success, though I dread the idea of a crowded airport terminal turning into a bumper car ride. On the other hand, riding a Modobag was a lot of fun. Case in point: watch the video above to see me race Fortune’s Venture editor Lauren Covello.