Segway and GM Unveil Two Wheel Electric "Car" of the Future

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Is it a marketing exercise for a firm desperate to show it’s environmental and innovation credentials, or is it a clever and viable new city transport option that could be the way of the future? What are we talking about? Segway-GM’s PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility Vehicle) ” a two-wheeled, two-seat electric car designed to drive on its own and automatically avoid collisions.

puma-3.jpg

Weighing in at just 600 pounds and powered by lithium ion batteries, the PUMA can travel 35 miles on a single four hour charge costing about $.35-.50 cents (depending on whose details you believe). Like the Segway scooter, the vehicle balances on two wheels with the help of gyros and is cutting edge in many of the fly by wire controls and smart electronics used. And like the Segway scooter, early adopters are likely to be niche applications ” university, government and tourist campuses, traffic free towns as found in middle European states and possibly more environmentally focused city states like Singapore. But we would like to see how the two wheeler copes with the ice and snow of a Chicago winter (not to mention the horrendous potholes!) before hailing this as the transport system of the future. However in the right environment we could see cities semi-pedestrianizing parts of the city centers for walking, cycling and vehicles of this type. Segway has produced and delivered some 60,000 electric scooters since inception in 2002, so they know a thing or two about lithium ion battery supply and management technologies. With GM’s backing, and a new administration keen to develop green initiatives one can forgive a little hype in their promotional material. The vehicle is a fully functioning prototype at the moment and not set to go on sale before 2012 when the cost is predicted to be 25-35% of the price of a small automobile.

–Stuart Burns

Comments (28)

  1. decline says:

    stupid stupid stupid…
    we already have stable two wheeled, two passenger vehicles…its called a scooter. make it electric and there you go. plus you won’t have to waste any battery life keeping a scooter balanced. the PUMA, like the Segway is a cute trick but other than that is it. they need to realize these little transportation problems have already been solved but in cheaper and less complex ways.

  2. Mathew says:

    I think this is a great Idea that GM has bought up, in this economy Electric Scooter will help people to manage their Cost and Expense.

  3. Joe says:

    LOL,
    Well at least we know where GM’s money has went. Any other bad ideas? Did the 90’s teach you not to try to make american cars look like foreign cars? Other than the new Dodge Challenger, Chevy Camero, and Ford Mustang. The rest of the cars are glorified 90’s Honda Accords and Civics. Looks sell cars and an American want to be Honda civic will not beat the actual Honda civic.

  4. Mike says:

    Uh-huh. Yeah, GM, a company on the edge of bankruptcy teams with the maker of Segway, a company that has yet to make a profit on their $100M investment. Smart.

  5. Jason says:

    I wonder what my Hummer would do to that in a collision?

  6. Christopher Stewart (real name no gimmick) says:

    The key is that it drives itself. Eliminating mobile vehicle accidents would be huge. Further, it may be a first step to creating smart traffic— where the roads and cars communicate to get you to where you need to go.

  7. Mark Rejhon says:

    I love scooters, but this has a niche at least:
    Trying to figure out the most compact footprint that’s still electric and self-balancing, and has a canopy around you, it’s hard to see that a regular cheap scooter works. To have a fully enclosed canopy while having the smallest footprint above the ground, you’re forced to creative solutions like segway’s self balancing scooter. The good news is that this segway rickshaw-car doesn’t need to waste energy self balancing when parked or stopped for extended periods — look at the landing wheels behind and in front. Segway made the power consumption of self balancing is actually pretty efficient, and competitive (or better than) other simpler electric scooter technologies.

    However, this probably won’t take off. But if GM doesn’t try to be an obstacle or schizophrenic in future decisions (think EV-1), it may have a good niche in a future “congestion” redesigns of city cores for narrow-width-only vehicles (i.e. only small electric vehicles allowed) to increase the number of lanes from 2 lanes to 4 lanes in narrow alleys, etc. If things like these happen in Singapore or other engineered cities, similiar vehicles to these may actually have a great chance of becoming a primary ‘downtown’ vehicle, as you can park many of these in such a small area, very competitively with motorcycles and auto-drive capable (For future robo driving designs, just sit and let it transport you.)

  8. Stuart Burns says:

    Delighted to see the article has generated so much interest, some positive, some negative. More importantly does anyone know what metals they plan using in this thing. And for those doubting Thomas’s out there I suspect this has more mileage than Segways scooter, not least of which because you get to sit down and you don’t get wet. Just remember to keep clear of the Hummer.

  9. Dr Zoidberg says:

    You know what else balances itself well? A vehicle with more than two wheels. Two wheels is a Patently Dumb gimmick. And why side-by-side seating? Again, dumb.

    BMW invented the Isetta 50 years ago.

  10. wtobias says:

    looks like a wheelchair

  11. Jim Sharar says:

    The sides appear to be open so rainy days will not be fun. In addittion to the Isetta….I had one…there was also the messerschmit

  12. Arcturus says:

    Marketing this would be the ultimate task for GM. It’s a smarter solution, but segways look nerdy. The mentality about most cars and why people buy them, IMO, is that must have power. At least here in the US. If not vehicles like the Toyota Echo would be still in commission.

  13. Dee Tee says:

    a wheel chair that keeps rain out and can hold twins. Thanks GM.

  14. Yah says:

    The sides are open because it’s a prototype. They could make a production model with sides.

  15. Toad says:

    What’s the crash test rating on this? Negative 73? If you want to die and look like a complete jackass while doing it, get in one of these.

  16. slapshot says:

    Seems like they could add the electronics and a canopy to a mobility scooter and get the same results with a lot less investment. Though, I must admit, “GM teams up with the Scooter Store” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  17. addo says:

    India made the cheapest car, it is 2000$. This GM scooter is 6000$ The india car is 5 times bigger and it’s said that can not be sold in the US for safty reasons! Yeah, the scooter is safe! and cheaper!

  18. Wordy says:

    “GM invents new waste of money”

  19. Anonymous says:

    I can’t wait to see this tested on a slick downhill slope. Can you imagine the insurance stories? (
    “My car was just parked there, and this giant wheelchair just skidded out of control into my car!”) Also, a vehicle that drives itself to avoid collisions? Didn’t NASA begin it’s Mercury Project this way – by taking control away from people? (“The pilot would merely be a redundant component.”) Let’s not repeat history, GM. No matter how you engineer it, there will still be drunk wheelchair collisions on futuristic highways.

  20. Randy says:

    Couldn’t a thief just pick it up and put it on a pick-up? Looks like the easiest car in the world to steal. And, at $6,000, it would be worth stealing.

  21. Tracy says:

    How much?? I like the idea for crammed cities, but I think there would have to be an alternate route for the 2 wheelers. Meaning if you mix cars or trucks with this 2 wheeler especially since it only goes 35 miles an hour you’re just asking for an accident. It would be nice to have a separate lane. I know they have separate lanes for bicyclist. Maybe this would be something to think about. And where will you go if your 2 wheeler is not working or needs maintenance?? It ‘s not like you can just pull up to jiffy lube – they won’t know anything, normally do they know much. They usually have to look everything up online or call the dealer, which is funny because what about the manual – I am sure this should have some suggestions. Any who, I like the idea, but how logical is it right now, currently and what does this mean for everyone else??? To me it is a safety issue. I think the proper audience to try and sell this too would be “College Campus’s” This ould help students get around, or maybe even up in MI at mackinaw island. Here they have no cars, but maybe a 2 wheeler might be a possibility. I thinking bringing the idea to smaller cities first may be effect as far is impact and others may feel perhaps more acceptable for this idea. Just a thought.

  22. Anonymous says:

    If it drives itself you wont get fined for drink driving awsome

  23. Anonymous says:

    A moving garbage can…

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