At first glance, the Arrow looks like a standard go-kart, with four wheels, a low profile and controls that include a steering column and gas/brake pedals. It’s pretty close to a real driving experience, and it’s all powered by a Lithium-Ion battery that can be recharged from a wall outlet. This makes it a lot safer than standard gas-powered go-karts, and easier than even Power Wheels. As a child I remember seeing plenty of dead vehicles sitting in my neighbors’ backyards, gathering leaves from disuse.
Of course, part of the fun of having a go-kart is tailoring it to your own sense of style, which is why Actev sells body kits. You can trick out the vehicle to look like a Formula racer, with other vehicle styles planned down the line (but none announced at this time). The wheels and steering are designed to be customizable too. Right now the one accoutrement you can add is a pair of drift rings over the rear tires, which will reduce friction and allow children to imitate drifting techniques from movies like The Fast and the Furious.
I didn’t get to see any drifting in action, but I did get to watch one of the Arrow karts zip around an indoor studio. The young driver at the demo took a few laps around a large room and down an empty hall under the watchful eye of Actev Motors co-founder Dave Bell, who was able to control the vehicle’s speed and gear from his phone.
Power Wheels tops out at five miles per hour — just slow enough for an adult to keep pace as they supervise a little kid. But it’s frustrating for older children, which is why the Arrow Smart-Kart can do up to 12 miles per hour. However, that makes it pretty easy to outpace a parent walking or jogging. With the Arrow app, however, a parent doesn’t have to leave the porch to make sure their kid doesn’t take it too far. The app connects to the kart via WiFi and allows an adult to limit the speed, gear and even distance.
If a driver takes the Arrow out of range, it starts to slow down, forcing the child to turn the car around and bring it back within the virtual fence if they want to get back up to full speed. And, if the kid starts to get a little rough with the Arrow and steers it toward a fence or mailbox, the kart is equipped with collision avoidance tech. It’s not perfect — the kart I saw was a bit dinged up from a mishap involving a pillar — but it’s lot more protection than, say, a bike would offer. However, the company still recommends kids wear a helmet while operating the kart.
Though the Arrow Smart-Kart is best suited for kids ages five through eight, that doesn’t mean older children or even adults can’t cram into the seat. Which I did, though not easily. It required a bit of contortion to get my legs under the steering wheel, but once seated I was mostly fine. Mostly.
A top speed of 12 miles per hour doesn’t sound like a lot, but it feels swift when you’re actually riding the thing, because it accelerates quickly. As I’ve previously admitted, I don’t actually know how to drive, so I was a bit cautious at first, hitting the gas for short bursts. The steering wheel requires some effort to turn, which is good because it means your kid can’t accidentally go off-course; they have to make a very deliberate decision to go left or right. In my case, I found I didn’t turn quickly enough inside the studio, which left me having to back up to course correct often. While gear changes can be made through the app, reverse can also be enabled by double tapping the brake while fully stopped.