It seems like “what if Power Wheels… but faster?” is a question that would have been answered some time ago, and yet! The Actev Motors Arrow Smart-Kart may be the first kid-focused speedster to truly deliver, especially in a way that doesn’t scare the hell out of parents.
The Arrow, which debuts this weekend at the New York City Toy Fair, is an electric go-kart that really goes—up to 12 mph, to be precise. The $600 base model looks like an upscale version of what you’d find at a family race track, but an extra $100 nets you a body kit (red or silver) straight out of Formula One. Another optional add-on lets you drift. Yes, drift. A preteen with a need for speed might be a scary proposition, but at least now they’ll have an option to go careening in style.
That’s part of what prompted the creation of Arrow in the first place, says Actev CEO Dave Bell.
“I don’t want to slam Power Wheels, but by the time a kid gets to five-years-old, they’re pretty much bored with them,” says Bell. “There’s really no where for them to graduate to. When they’re done with the Power Wheels, they really have to wait until nine-years-old to get into other kinds of motorized driving vehicles.”
Arrow hopes to bridge that gap in a way that keeps kids engaged without making their parents prematurely grey. The Arrow’s not just fast, it’s also smart: It connects via Wi-Fi to an app on a concerned caregiver’s phone. Not only can grown-ups lower the maximum speed to whatever their tolerance will bear, they can geo-fence the kart to keep it within a defined area. They can also stop the Arrow with the push of a button.
Adding to the software-based safety measures are collision-avoidance sensors that would ideally stop the Arrow before it plows into an obstacle.
In some ways, the feature set shows an admirable amount of restraint. Unlike so many “smart” devices, each software-based enhancement has demonstrable value. The software doesn’t steal attention away from the ride, it just helps make sure the ride is a safe one. It’s refreshing, especially after a long wave of “smart” toys that make inexplicable choices, like shoving a webcam inside of a Barbie.
Still, don’t expect Arrow to stop here.
“We designed this to be at platform,” says Bell. “We want it to be able to accept accessories, additional games and sensors, things like that.” Those power-ups (in the extreme case, think real-life Mario Kart) could come from Actev itself, or from third parties. There’s no API to let developers play with Arrow yet, but Bell’s open to the idea, as well as to letting third parties design drive kits and other hardware.
The Arrow should net 30-60 minutes of drive time on a single battery charge, or twice that if you opt for the bulkier double-capacity battery. It takes 10 or so hours to charge, but for $50 more customers can upgrade to a “fast charger,” which should top a smart-kart off in less than 90 minutes.
Should is a deliberate word choice, both because battery life estimates are notoriously fickle (and in this case will depend on your manner of driving) and because the consumer version of the Arrow Smart-Kart does not actually exist yet. While the company’s accepting pre-orders now, the product doesn’t actually ship until June. That long of a timeline might rightly make you nervous, but the karts Actev is bringing to the Toy Fair are fully functional production prototypes, and Bell is “pretty confident” he can meet the stated date.
Let’s hope he does, because plans for what comes next sound even more exciting—especially if you’re out of high school. The company is looking at making products that can “grow” with their users, and even fit parents.
And after enabling dads to drift? Actev has its sights on an even bigger untapped market. Bell thinks that the expertise his company has built in electric drivetrains could be big business, as more and more legacy recreational vehicle companies try to move away from fossil fuels.
“There’s virtually no electric recreational vehicles today,” says Bell. “I think the challenge is that companies who make that stuff really don’t have the Silicon Valley access to technology that I’m accustomed to. I think that creates a market opportunity for us.” That’s a speck on the horizon, though. For now, it’s maybe better to focus on the go-kart and just how many donuts your nieces will pull off before mom pulls the plug.