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Happy Birthday to the Segway

Business Technology | January 11, 2012

It wasn’t that long ago that inventor Dean Kamen thought his two-wheeled personal transportation device, the Segway, would transform transportation.  Unfortunately, the Segway has become synonymous with technology failure.  Kamen envisioned a future filled people zipping about on a Segway PT scooter to run errands and travel to work.

That hasn’t happened. However, Segways are still around. Indeed, Segway celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011, and it’s not completely rare to see the devices zipping along downtown sidewalks. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a tech “failure.”

Let’s discuss how the Segway actually works though.

Powering the Segway

Each Segway PT is powered by electric motors which are, in turn, fueled by phosphate-based lithium-ion batteries. Segway owners can charge these batteries by plugging their Segways into common residential electrical sockets. The unit doesn’t fall over because of its two computers loaded with proprietary software, pair of tilt sensors, and five gyroscopic sensors.

Making the Segway Move

The user plays the largest role in making the Segway move. By simply shifting your weight in the direction you need to go and moving the handlebars slightly, the Segway’s sensors recognize the change in balance point and react appropriately. The latest version of the Segway features a top speed of 12.5 MPH. For obvious reason, it functions best on flat surfaces.

Lowered Expectations

Experts touted that the Segway would be a bigger deal that Internet. Clearly the device didn’t meet that level of hype!

Unfortunately, once the Segway was released many thought it looked weird and you looked bizarre riding one. Others thought it looked dangerous. Regardless, the downsides were enough to prevent the Segway from reaching its promised potential.


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