Friday, March 17, 2006

The Segway

John asked:
So as a mechanical engineer, what is your assessment of the segway? In a tabula rasa transportation world, would it make sense?
I'll admit I have been a bit biased from the start. When I was in High School in the early to mid nineties, I used to watch a show on the Discovery Channel called The Next Step. It was a tech and gadget show based out of San Francisco. In one episode the host, Richard Hart, was riding around showing off this folding electric scooter designed to fit in your car's trunk. He rode it around. He drag raced some kids. It was cool.

When I first saw the segway I thought "We've been able to build electric scooters that do the same thing for almost a decade, this is revolutionary?"

The segway is an innovative design, don't get me wrong. The problem is that it is an innovative design for a product of mediocre worth. Even if there wasn't a road and sidewalk infrastructure, the segway still has issues. It lacks the range and speed for serious commuting. If they took the speed delimiter off (fixing one of those problems), it would be too fast to use without safety gear. Because gyrostabilization isn't free, the segway essentially has to be a lot more expensive (~$5k) than a more conventional electric scooter design with the capabilities. (~$800). And it's heavier and doesn't fold up and store as well as conventional scooter.

Frankly I'd rather ride a bike or learn to rollerblade anyway.

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