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Transportation Earth Technology

Segway, GM Partner On Two-Wheeled Electric Car 394

Slartibartfast was one of many readers sending in news of GM's partnership with Segway to develop a two-seater urban electric vehicle. It's called the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, or "PUMA." This is just a prototype, so don't get your credit card out yet. Its total cost of ownership could be about 1/4 that of a traditional car, GM says. The prototype runs for 35 miles, at a top speed of 35 mph, on lithium-ion batteries. It features the now-familiar Segway balancing technology, though fore-and-aft training wheels are visible on the prototype. Some commentators have likened it to a high-tech rickshaw, others to a golf cart. Engadget describes how the ride feels.
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Segway, GM Partner On Two-Wheeled Electric Car

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  • by kkrajewski ( 1459331 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:49PM (#27494483) Journal

    Add a third wheel and suddenly now you don't need thousands of dollars of gyroscopes and such.

    • Exactly my thoughts. A 3 wheel design would also use less energy since it wouldn't have to use motors to keep it balanced.

      • by grodzix ( 1235802 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:24PM (#27495009)
        But with 3rd wheel it loses it's cool factor (and then no one for sure will buy it).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hansamurai ( 907719 )

      Or add two more wheels, a couple more seats, a larger engine, and enclose it so you're better protected at higher speeds...

      Obviously this is just GM wasting more (of my) money. A cell phone acting as the dashboard? Some proprietary wireless communication between pumas? Destined to fail.

    • by myxiplx ( 906307 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:08PM (#27494795)

      Yup, and I'd love to see how it manages an emergency stop!

      A far better design would be two electric drive wheels at the front and a simple free steering wheel at the back. You've got all the advantages of this when it comes to size & simplicity (no complex steering rack), but you then don't need all that complex balancing software, it's more stable both at rest and in motion, it uses less power, and has far better emergency brakes.

      Oh, and it doesn't fall on its arse when the battery runs flat.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Your concept sounds like a Dymaxion car.
      • by blhack ( 921171 )

        Yup, and I'd love to see how it manages an emergency stop!

        Look at the Photo [] of the thing.
        It has wheelie bars on the front and back that prevent it from tipping over on a hard stop.

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        Three wheelers have terrifying cornering problems. Note that you can't buy three wheeled ATVs anymore because too many people drove them like four wheeled cars and killed themselves.

        • Three wheelers have terrifying cornering problems. Note that you can't buy three wheeled ATVs anymore because too many people drove them like four wheeled cars and killed themselves.

          That would depend on the configuration. If you have the two wheels up front, and the rear wheel the one with power, that changes the dynamics considerably.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You don't need gyros OR a third wheel to keep a two-wheeled scooter upright.
    • That I can only assume the ultimate plan is to use it as a base for a robot.


    • by ElizabethGreene ( 1185405 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:31PM (#27495137)
      I could be mistaken, but haven't we had 2 wheeled urban transports for > 180 years? Link: []
    • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

      I agree, but the lack of the third wheel can probably help in adapting it for an automated-rental style system, as well as extra parking room (a big deal in places like NYC). They have such rental systems in other countries, where you rent a bike/mini car from an automated machine, and I imagine such a thing would be useful in large American cities.

      It would certainly save money, but then so would just adapting a golf cart.

  • by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:50PM (#27494495) Homepage Journal

    Built by a company called Yamaha.

  • Is it safe? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:51PM (#27494509) Homepage

    I mean, let's say a bus is coming towards you. If you're in this thing, you're toast. But if you just WALK, you can always jump out of the way.

    • Hey man, I heard you like segways, so I built you this new segway that's got segway tech inside of it.
    • They actually want to use "collision avoidance". Vehicles would be outfitted electronically to "exchange speed, direction and position data, then one of them could make a decision to brake in an emergency situation to avoid an accident". In principle this is a great concept, but given that most vehicles don't have this yet, that's not something you can solely rely on for the time being.
      • A malicious hacker would have a field day with such a system. Causing computers to fail is one thing, but causing massive traffic jams takes hacking to a whole new level.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Asic Eng ( 193332 )
          He could accomplish the same thing by standing on bridges and throwing stones at cars, or shooting out cars' headlights. Things like that have happened before unfortunately, and it's not going to be possible to prevent someone from endangering people in that way. However it's quite possible to find that person and lock him up for murder or attempted murder.
      • by Quothz ( 683368 )

        In principle this is a great concept, but given that most vehicles don't have this yet, that's not something you can solely rely on for the time being.

        In fairness, this thing's still a long way from seeing the market. Possibly GM predicts, or hopes, that such systems will have begun to proliferate before that day comes.

        I'll agree with you anyway, but go further and say it's not something you'll ever be able to solely rely upon. Until cars can recognize pedestrians, animals, obstructions, big potholes, sudden lane changes, stuff falling off an overloaded truck, and suchlike, as well as take appropriate actions other than braking, this will be no more the

    • Re:Is it safe? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Quothz ( 683368 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:35PM (#27495193) Journal

      I mean, let's say a bus is coming towards you. If you're in this thing, you're toast. But if you just WALK, you can always jump out of the way.

      I suspect GM may include some sort of control for controlling the direction of movement. If so, you could, y'know, turn. I doubt it'll be any less safe than bicycles and motorcycles in that regard.

      Walking is an excellent option and I do so whenever possible. However, it's tricky to walk at 35mph; I never got the knack.

      Something like this looks like it'd be an okay option for someone who needs to travel a fair bit within a city metro area. I'm strictly meh on it from what's said in TFA, but I don't think your specific criticism is particularly valid.

    • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      Yeah, but with this thing, after you collide at 35mph the car will right itself automatically using gyroscopes. Just hang onto the controls and start screaming for help!

  • "Hey GM, if you want to get another gov't loan, you have to do this partnership with Segway..."

    Will create the perfect urban vehicle that sells as much as the original Segway does.

    Why not just have GM resell these... Maybe bring the Oldsmobile name back just for them...

    Oldsmobile Golf Cart! []

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:53PM (#27494523)
    I'm bad at math, but isn't that just one hour of drive time?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:59PM (#27494617)
      You forgot to allow for the relativistic effects.
    • When I read various articles on this (and submitted my own story), what it should read is:

      It can reach a top speed of 35 miles an hour or go for 35 miles on one charge.

      It does not mean it can go at its top speed for 35 miles. Only that it can reach that speed but the charge won't last 35 miles at that speed.

      At least that's how I took it after reading and re-reading the blurbs.

    • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:06PM (#27494753) Journal

      I'm bad at math...

      So is the management at GM.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        So is the management at GM.

        Don't worry, they're now being run by an organiztion which spent its entire GDP [] in 6 months. A company that lost billions of dollars a year is now being run by an organization which loses over a trillion a year. I hope that works out for them. :\

    • If the commute is anything like Austin, you won't get above 26mph anyways.

    • by Znork ( 31774 )

      Nah, in 18 month's it's 30 minutes. Gotta love lithium ion bomb, eh, battery technology.

      No mention of any price either; one article mentions it'd cost 1/2 to 1/4 of an ordinary car in city driving, but I'd bet that neither includes capital cost or battery replacement cost.

      Companies like Tata are so going to eat GM's lunch.

      And really. I'd rather buy a Nano.

  • That's just sick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:54PM (#27494539)

    The idiots are facing bankruptcy, living off taxpayer bailouts and here they are toying with one of the century's worst failures in venture capital backed technology.

  • PUMA? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I think it looks more like a Warthog.

  • PUMA? (Score:4, Funny)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:55PM (#27494559) Homepage Journal

    Why name it after some mythical creature when it clearly looks more like a warthog?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sarahbau ( 692647 )

      Maybe this is some joke that went over my head, but since when are pumas mythical?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) *

        Red vs. Blue []

      • Re:PUMA? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <> on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:10PM (#27494823)

        Red vs Blue - Season 1 Episode 2 - Red Gets a Delivery []

        Sarge: Hurry up ladies, this ain't no ice cream social!

        Simmons: Ice cream social?

        Sarge: Stop the pillow-talk you two. Anyone want to guess, why I gathered you here, today?

        Grif: Um, is it because the war's over and you're sending us home?

        Sarge: That's exactly it, private. War's over. We won. Turns out you're the big hero, and we're gonna hold a parade in your honor. I get to drive the float, and Simmons here, is in charge of confetti!

        Grif: I'm no stranger to sarcasm, sir.

        Sarge: God dammit private, shut your mouth or else I'll have Simmons slit your throat while you're asleep!

        Simmons: Oh, I'd do it too.

        Sarge: I know you would Simmons... good man. Couple of things today, ladies: Command has seen fit to increase our ranks here at Blood Gulch Outpost Number 1.

        Grif: Crap, we're getting a rookie.

        Sarge: That's right dead man. Our new recruit will be here within the week. But today, we received the first part of our shipment from Command. Lopez... bring up the vehicle.

        A jeep emerges from the hill behind Sarge

        Simmons: Shotgun!

        Grif: Shotgun! Fuck!

        Sarge: May I introduce, our new light reconnaissance vehicle. It has four inch armor plating, maaag buffer suspension, a mounted machine gunner position, and total seating for three. Gentlemen, this is the M12-LRV! I like to call it the Warthog.

        Simmons: Why 'Warthog' sir?

        Sarge: Because M12-LRV is too hard to say in conversation, son.

        Grif: No, but... why 'Warthog'? I mean, it doesn't really look like a pig...

        Sarge: Say that again?

        Grif: I think it looks more like a puma.

        Sarge: What in sam hell is a puma?

        Simmons: Uh... you mean like the shoe company?

        Grif: No, like a puma. It's a big cat. Like a lion.

        Sarge: You're making that up.

        Grif: I'm telling you, it's a real animal!

        Sarge: Simmons, I want you to poison Grif's next meal.

        Simmons: Yes sir!

        Sarge: Look, see these two tow hooks? They look like tusks. And what kind of animal has tusks?

        Grif: A walrus.

        Sarge: Didn't I just tell you to stop making up animals?

        Church is looking at the red team through the sniper rifle, and Tucker is with him

        Tucker: What is that thing?

        Church: I don't know, but it looks like uh... looks like they got some kinda car down there. We'd better get back to base and report it.

        Tucker: A car? How come they get a car?

        Church: What are you complaining about man? We're about to get a tank in the very next drop.

        Tucker: You can't pick up chicks in a tank.

        Church: Oh, you know what, you could bitch about anything, couldn't you. We're gonna get a tank, and you're worried about chicks. What chicks are we gonna pick up man!? Firay, and secondly, how are we gonna pick up chicks in a car that looks like that?

        Tucker: Well what kind of car is it?

        Church: I don't know, I've never seen a car that looks like that before, it looks like a uh... like a big cat of some kind.

        Tucker: ... ... what, like a puma?

        Church: Yeah man, there ya go.

        Back to the reds

        Sarge: So unless anybody else has any more mythical creatures to suggest as a name for the new vehicle, we're gonna stick with 'the Warthog'. How about it Grif?

        Grif: No sir, no more suggestions.

        Sarge: Are you sure? How 'bout Bigfoot?

        Grif: That's okay.

        Sarge: Unicorn?

        Grif: No really, I'm... I'm cool.

        Sarge: Sasquatch?

    • Puma? You mean like the shoe company?
  • PUMA? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:56PM (#27494569) Journal
    PUMA? Portable Urban Mobility and Accessibility?

    Is that the best they could come up with?

    If a transport product is going to be called PUMA, it should at the very least allow me to stalk prey from tree branches, rocky outcroppings, or tall grass, silently leaping with claws outstretched, to hamstring them and then choke them with my jaws, so I can drag them back to my lair and devour their tender innards at ease.

    I think this product should be called COUGAR, for Compensatory Object for Urban Guys Against Railtransit.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by clam666 ( 1178429 )

      If it was called COUGAR, it would just start randomly bumping into all the brand new cars on the road.

      YES, it's clever.

  • Ride a motorcycle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cornercuttin ( 1199799 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:56PM (#27494575) Homepage
    You can get better mileage out of a small CC motorcycle engine, go faster, and not look as much like an idiot.

    I know a motorcycle is still gas, but a battery will be using up other energy somehow, and if you live in Oklahoma like I do, it's just coming from coal or oil.

    better yet, just get a horse.
    • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:05PM (#27494743)

      if you live in Oklahoma like I do, it's just coming from coal or oil

      And as has been shown many, many times before, the net impact on the environment is still much less than burning fuel in a small internal combustion engine. Power plants have the advantage of higher temperatures, more consistant loads, unlimited weight and size, and being always on. They are much more efficient at pulling energy out of fossil fuels, even including losses due to transmition, charging, and the electrical engine.

  • Seems rather silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @03:57PM (#27494583)

    35 mph, 35 miles before a recharge is needed.

    A bike will easily go 15 mph, doesn't have a range restriction, and uses no electricity.

    A motorized scooter will go the same speed or faster, and has a greater range, plus has the advantage of being able to stop almost anywhere for gasoline.

    So which niche is this targetting?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 )
      Last year, on vacation at a beach resort, I happened upon the local Segway salesman/rental guy in a bar. He was going on and on about the benefits of his vehicles. I leaned in, and challenged him to a race. Him on the Seg, me on my bike. Beach to downtown and back...15 miles each way. And I am probably twice his age.

      He quickly changed the subject.
    • Double the range and I can make it back and forth to work in it. I've ridden bikes on the roads here while I was in college; that is taking your life in your hands. On top of that you end up arriving to work smelly and sweaty on any day that isn't too cold or the weather isn't too bad to ride. There are plenty of people who are worried about their ability to get to work is dependent on the whims of the oil market. The price of oil that is currently keeping gas prices from bankrupting our ability to get
      • You're taking your life in your hands when you drive everywhere, too, it just isn't so obvious. The risks from heart disease and other afflictions of the unfit are much larger that those from cycling, though perhaps your roads are unusually unsafe.

        The weather problems of cycling are also overrated. The cars are much more dangerous in bad weather, so you have to be extra-careful of them, but clothing is a big help at dealing with the cold, and lack of clothing helps with the hot. Rain is, indeed, the wors

    • For me a bicycle has a range limit to about the end of the driveway.
    • So which niche is this targetting?

      Let's look at the two companies behind this thing. We have GM, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. We also have Segway, which is also rumored to be on the verge of bankruptcy. [] Both companies are known for creating devices that are tremendous [] flops. [] I think it's safe to say, they have no idea.

    • The Germans mucked around with motorized scooter cars in post-WWII: [] and []

      Maybe they will be resurrected?

    • Unmanned Rickshaws?

      A fleet of them sit at pickup/dropoff points in city centers, you get in one, select a destination and it drives itself there.GPS and some forward looking radar to avoid obstacles would all that would really be needed.

      The fact it's on two wheel should mean it can rotate on the spot making it ideal for tight operating spaces.

      Add a bit of network communication with a central server and the things could drive themselves to pickup points which are running low on vehicles or have them congrega

    • Bike's are a great transportation solution for a lot of people, but they're not for everyone. There are many people that just can't ride a bike because of various physical limitations. Maintaining what you consider a reasonable 15 mph is beyond a lot of people.

      Depending on a person's needs and preferences, this vehicle could offer a number of advantages over a bike.

      It's wider than a bike and the back could be painted a bright fluorescent color, making it quite visible to motorists.

      It's got a full win

  • ...sudden moves.
  • I'm sorry... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:00PM (#27494649) Journal
    but this thing is an epic fail. It's a prime example of why GM is going into bankruptcy.
  • The dreams of the Homer car will finally come true...
  • Too big for a standard sidewalk.

    Too small to be safe on the road.

    Has a roll-cage...because it needs one. /me thinks this idea won't save GM.

  • Naming (Score:3, Funny)

    by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:09PM (#27494815) Journal

    I think the GM name is a bit tainted these days, and as for Segway, that's synonymous with venture capital funded half-baked ideas that failed to learn the lessons of previous marketing failures.

    How about something with a classical ring to it, like 'Sinclair.' And for the model name, well how about C for 'cool' and 5 for the number of people who will need to buy it? There. Sinclair C5 []. Perfect.

  • by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2009 @04:12PM (#27494847) Homepage
    Segway: Stealing the last particle of human dignity from rent-a-cops worldwide.
  • Coming out in 2012? GM won't be around by then...

    Now you can get beat up in pairs:


  • Okay, "jumped the shark" isn't a perfect fit, but I just can't think of a better phrase - but with the Segway and now this vehicle, it's like they have no idea how to really be original in a way that addresses an actual issue. It simply comes down to all this silly stuff about being able to balance on fewer wheels than normal. But what, exactly, do you actually gain from a practical standpoint by doing that? It seems like we've got these impractical, uselessly overengineered products that don't fit into any

  • Does Segway make anything that doesn't make you look like a dork when riding in/on it?

  • What I'm seeing here is all the disadvantages and dangers of riding a motorcycle, but without any of the speed and maneuverability. I'll pass, thank you. Someone out there was making electric motorcycles, I'd sooner go for that than something like this.
  • shovels some at an existing crappy concept at Segway and astroturfs up some cheap green tech to qualify for the terms attached to the bailout money.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.