Just about every one of those one-wheeled electric skateboards you see zipping around San Francisco has been recalled.
Future Motion, the Santa Cruz-based manufacturer of the popular Onewheel motorized boards, issued a voluntary recall of all its units Friday, months after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) first sounded the alarm.
Early models of the Onewheel boards—the Onewheel and the Onewheel+—should no longer be used, according to the company. All other models can be used as soon as a firmware update is installed, which will install a new “haptic buzz” safety feature to warn riders when they’re in an unsafe situation.
“The skateboards can stop balancing the rider if the boards’ limits are exceeded,” according to the recall notice posted on the commission website, “posing a crash hazard that can result in serious injury or death.”
Four people have died between 2019 and 2021 from riding on the boards, per the recall. All sustained head trauma, and at least three of them were not wearing helmets. Dozens of others sustained severe injuries, including traumatic brain injury, concussion and paralysis, body fractures and ligament damage.
The company estimates that 300,000 of its boards have been sold from when the company was launched in 2014 up to the date of the recall. A Onewheel spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Onewheel was first born out of a 2014 Kickstarter campaign from Future Motion founder Kyle Doerksen, a Stanford mechanical engineering graduate. Within weeks of the campaign’s launch, it surpassed its initial $100,000 fundraising goal six times over. The first models were released into the wild in November that year.
The boards have become popular enough that a racing league was formed and communities of enthusiasts and board modders—users who hack the products to tailor specifications—have emerged.
San Francisco has also proven to be a popular base for Onewheel, and the company has responded in kind. One video posted on Onewheel’s YouTube page is titled “Onewheel GT vs. the Steepest Streets in San Francisco.” (A warning on the video notes that the stunt is “extremely dangerous and may result in loss of control or damage to your Onewheel.”)
The recall news has proven divisive among Onewheel users, especially early adopters who are being pushed to purchase new boards. Owners of the Onewheel and Onewheel+ devices receive a paltry $100 discount on a new model, which retail starting at $1,050.
“I'm basically being punished for being a long time customer,” one aggrieved rider posted on Reddit.
Other Onewheel enthusiasts are also unhappy with the new updates for their newer electrified boards, with some complaining that their devices were “bricked”—or effectively rendered unusable—after installing the new firmware. People who have modified their devices are being urged by fellow users to hold off on updates. Others griped about the new haptic buzzing being a nuisance.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission first issued a notice about the boards last November, finding that riders were being ejected from the boards. At the time, Future Motion resisted the push for a recall—calling it an “unwarranted and unprecedented action” and assuring that “the people who actually ride Onewheels understand them best.”
“They know Onewheels are safe when operated with commonsense riding practices and a helmet and that they are no riskier than other motor and boardsports,” Doerksen said at the time.
On its website, Future Motion said the current recall “is the culmination of months of work with the CPSC.”
Joshua Bote can be reached at email@example.com