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Where’s My Segway/Car Hybrid?

April 8, 2009

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 Speaking of flying cars…

 Yesterday GM announced a joint venture with Segway to produce a new type of urban vehicle named P.U.M.A (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility). It’s a crazy science-fiction-like idea from a company only breaths away from bankruptcy, but you have to give them credit for their innovation, consideration of the environment, and their daring to break away from the traditional car model. 

The PUMA would be about one-third to one-fourth the cost of today’s modern car, and would run on a lithium-ion battery. The vehicle could get up to speeds of 35 mph, and would get up to 35 miles per battery charge. The vehicle would combine the technology of the Segway scouter with the vehicular engineering ability of GM. The result looks somewhat like an office chair built for a destruction derby. I have no sympathy for GM. They are historically noted to have systematically destroyed public transportation in many major cities, so I really don’t care if they go bankrupt. I am, however, a denizen and lover of this great blue planet so I do care about our impact. Therefore I do love hearing about any technology focused on helping/saving the environment. 

If you read the new conceptual strategies evolving around urban city planning you’ll see that everything is based around things getting smaller and more compact. Tata, an Indian motor company, has recently revealed their Nano- an compact and affordable car for cramped urban spaces. Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow recently wrote an article in the Boston Globe about the possible lessons an urban planner can discover from slums. Not due to its poverty and crime, but the way “… that housing and commerce mingle.” Being small and compact will have its advantages in the future. With our population booming we must begin thinking ahead in ways we can provide necessities for everyone, including transportation, food, and shelter. So to make a long story short, I think reinventing the car does make sense, and is inevitable for the future. Give it awhile, but soon you will be seeing more smart cars, and less boat-like Excursions on the road. 

Let me close up in some critique for the GM R&D department. Safety needs to be key. If you’re going to convince me to drive around in a coffin looking device, you’d better get me believing that it only looks like a coffin. When I buy a car, safety is one of the first ratings I look at, and if it’s not safe, it’s not for me. Second, the lithium-ion battery is a great idea, but I think the electrical grid of the United States needs an overhaul first. If everyone were to switch to an electric car tomorrow I think he entire grid would be shut down. And things are even more jam-packed on a city grid. So depending on your timeline, consider alternate fueling methods. And lastly, unless you’re considering marketing your vehicle as a fitness machine (see the Nintendo Wii’s example), you might want to add some weights to help the driver move around traffic. Granted I haven’t driven your vehicle, but it looks like a vertical pilates machine, and might offer more core work than some overweight customers would prefer.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Wes permalink
    April 10, 2009 10:52 am

    I think the most important thing is that GM is doing NO design work on this project!!! Segway has quickly come into main stream existance through innovative thinking, and this reason alone should make GM, and every other decade old company in America, begin to re-examine their R&D programs and how their image is viewed. Honestly, who whouldn’t rather drive a Honda Civic hybrid over a ford focus?

    Go Segway…Designed, procured, and built in the good old USA,(Bedford, NH to be exact)

    • blueskywriter permalink*
      April 14, 2009 1:33 pm

      All excellent points, and I’m certainly on board with you.

      GM has only themselves to blame for lousy products, poor ethical business decisions, and the lack of support from the American people and government.

      And while I agree Segway has superior technology innovations, they seriously need to hire a design team. Maybe designers from somewhere where they don’t wear flannel to work…

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