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Segway HT

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Inventor Dean Kamen demonstrates the Segway HT at the U.S. Department of Commerce on February 14 2002.

The Segway is a self-balancing electric one-axle, stand-up scooter with two wheels, invented by Dean Kamen and unveiled in December 2001. It is produced by the company Segway LLC, which is based in Bedford, New Hampshire.

In laws that regulate or ban it, the applicable category is sometimes called "electric personal assistive mobility device" (EPAMD).

Contents

History

Prior to its demonstration on December 3, 2001, various reports and rumours of a revolutionary invention could be found in the media, but no details were available. Initial reception was enthusiastic; Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested that cities will be built around this new method of transportation, venture capitalist John Doerr predicted $1 billion in sales faster than after any other product launch. To cope with the expected demand, the factory in Bedford, New Hampshire was designed to build up to 40 thousand units per month.

Shortly after the demonstration three Segways were sold on auctions at Amazon.com for more than 100,000 dollars each. After several months Amazon and then the official site started regular sales.

The company had expected to sell 50-100 thousand units in the first year, but after 21 months only 6000 units had been sold. The figure was revealed during the voluntary recall of all Segways in September 2003; the condition that led to the recall was described in the press release as "Hazard: Under certain operating conditions, particularly when the batteries are near the end of charge, some Segway HTs may not deliver enough power, allowing the rider to fall. This can happen if the rider speeds up abruptly, encounters an obstacle, or continues to ride after receiving a low-battery alert."

Although the company has faced many disappointments, as of 2004, Segway is working to increase its market share to help recoup the investments in R&D and production. Although some publications are sometimes skeptical in tone, it is possible that the Segway will still be a commercial success once the investment is written off (as happened with Iridium). It is also worth noting that by its nature the idea was approached by the investors as high-risk, high-return venture project. Today, after the hype had died down, Segway continues to expand its efforts in distribution and research and development. Segway currently boasts over 70 national dealers, partnerships with over 100 Brookstone stores, and new models coming out every year.

The unit's high price is most likely one of the factors responsible for demand being lower than expected. Another factor is the revolutionary nature of the product - potential customers are unfamiliar with the product and unaware of the potential benefits. To combat this problem Segway LLC had opened dealerships throughout the United States where people can examine and test-drive the Segways.

By autumn 2004 Segway has signed distribution agreements in some foreign markets, including Italy and South Korea. It has created a separate international division. The company has received positive feedback from regulators in France and Italy regarding the legal status of Segway riders.

Segway is marketed as being well-suited for denser and more populated cities, such as in Europe and Asia. American suburbs and many modern cities (such as Los Angeles) were designed to be navigated by cars only. Shorter distances between work, home and shopping areas make getting around on Segways more possible. It remains to be seen, however, if Segways will be more successful in these markets.

Uses

The Segway is designed to be used on sidewalks and other pedestrian areas, hence its footprint is not much bigger than that of a human being. While using Segways on sidewalks is prohibited in some American and European cities, in most locations its use is allowed, in some places explicitly.

If the distance to travel is small, a Segway can be used for personal transportation between home and office, for getting around the city center, shopping, outdoor trips, etc. It is already used in some theme parks by both visitors and employees. Numerous companies organise guided group tours on Segways in the USA, France, Thailand and other destinations.

Several organisations have run pilot tests on Segway business use, among them police departments, post offices and utility companies. Some of these pilot programs have demonstrated that Segways can often significantly reduce cost and quickly repay the investment, however, the massive fleet sales which Kamen and others predicted have not been forthcoming. This is partially due to the fact that the Segway has proven ill-suited for some of the applications for which it was promoted. For example, during a trial by mail-carriers employed by the United States Post Office to deliver mail on foot, many participants noted that they could not sort mail or hold an umbrella while operating a Segway. The participants also complained about the device's battery life, however, new batteries with increased capacity were announced in early 2005.

Although inspired by the iBOT wheelchair, the Segway was intended to be used primarily by healthy users. Still, there are many disabled people (400-600 people, according to a group called Disability Rights Advocates for Technology) who use Segways to enhance their limited mobility. Among the disabled users are people with multiple sclerosis or arthritis, COPD and even amputees. Using a Segway instead of a traditional wheelchair or a pricy iBOT (that costs 4-5 times as much as a Segway) allows them to easily travel around the city, while easing social interactions. However, Segway cannot be marketed as a medical device, because Johnson & Johnson has exclusive rights to the medical uses of the iBOT/Segway technology and because Segways have not been approved by the FDA.

Most of the Segway technology is concentrated in its base with the handle being only useful for the human rider. Stripped of the handle Segway becomes a universal robotic platform that is still capable of balancing whatever is installed and of moving around as easily as with a human. The Segway robotic platform is widely used by robotics developers in universities and private companies. In December 2003, the Associated Press reported that The Pentagon had purchased several Segways, as part of a research program called Mobile Autonomous Robot Software, an attempt to develop more advanced military robots. There have also been some rumours about a batch of sturdier Segways used by soldiers in a pilot exercise. (See also: Bicycles in warfare).

In October 2004 the company has released a prototype model of a 4-wheel ATV capable of driving on 2 wheels called Centaur.

In November 2004 Josh Caldwell became the first individual to complete a trans-continental trip from Seattle to Boston via a Segway Human Transport vehicle. The trip took 101 days leaving from Seattle on August 8, 2004 and finishing in Boston on November 18, 2004.

Technology

The Segway HT has electric motors powered by batteries which can be charged from household current. It balances with the help of internal computers and gyroscopic sensors. (The gyroscopes do not affect the balance; they are merely used as sensors.) The motors rotate the wheels forwards or backwards as needed for balance or propulsion. The rider accelerates or decelerates by leaning forward or backwards in the direction he wishes to travel. Steering is controlled by a twist grip on the left handlebar.

Models and price

Current versions include:

  • Segway HT - Human Transporter
  • Segway GT - Golf Transporter
  • Segway XT - Cross-Terrain Transporter

As of 2005, there are also variants of the HT model available:

  • i-series - general-purpose, can be used on variable terrain
  • p-series - for use on sidewalks, smaller with shorter battery life

Several new models were announced on March 1 2005, aimed more towards the recreational market. Extended range (15 to 24 miles) Lithium Ion batteries are also available for between $500 and $1300 depending on how they are purchased.

The price of Segway is $3995-$5495, depending on the model.

The Segway HT's maximum speed is 12 mph (19 km/h). Maximum power is 2 horsepower (1500 watt). The p-series is capable of covering 6-10 miles (10-16 km) on a fully charged standard battery, depending on terrain. It takes 4-6 hours to recharge.

Trivia

The Segway HT has been known by the names Ginger and IT in the past. The name "Segway" is a homophone of "segue" (a smooth transition); HT is an initialism for human transporter.

The inspiration behind the Segway HT came from the balancing technology of Kamen's innovative wheelchair, the IBOT, which can climb stairs, and prop itself up onto two wheels, to raise the user into a nearly-upright position. The first iterations of balancing technology were done in early Segway HT models.

The invention and development of the Segway HT is the subject of Code Name Ginger (the paperback edition is titled Reinventing the Wheel), a book by journalist Steve Kemper.

The Segway HT resembles the motorized, gyroscopically stabilized unicycles in the science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein titled "The Roads Must Roll."

An alternative power source currently being explored by Kamen's company is the Stirling engine, which could possibly power the Segway HT at some point in the distant future. Stirling engines use hot and cold in a phased rhythm to move a piston by gas expansion. Stirling engines could not "run themselves", as an external heat source must be provided somehow. The Peltier effect might be used. Stirling engines do have zero angular momentum and reduced vibration and are thus well suited for two-wheeled vehicles.

People at Bay Area SEG (http://www.bayareaseg.com) have been leading the trend to use Segway in a sport called Segway Polo. [1] (http://www.bayareaseg.com/Polo.htm)

A Segway-related presidential blooper occurred when President George W. Bush fell off his Segway, reportedly because he had neglected to turn it on.

See also

References

  • Code Name Ginger, by Steve Kemper

External links

id:Segway HT ja:セグウェイ nl:Segway HT

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