Segway Discussion Page

Background Information

There is a Segway web site you where you can learn more:,8599,186660,00.html

You can see an active-X image with descriptions here:

Sports versions of Segway (humor)

See some of the competition at:

PANASONIC: THE NEXT LEVEL OF Electric BIKES -- Panasonic has developed a new hybrid-electric bicycle for the U.S. market and Eric Sundin of Electric Vehicles of Northwest Seattle gives us the low-down on this next level of ebike development.

Comments Regarding the Technology (in the order received,)

Typically the marketing claims are unrealistic.  It has a to speed of 12 mph and they claim "it can carry the average rider for a full day, nonstop, on only five cents' worth of electricity."

A "full day, nonstop"???  It uses standard NiCad or NiMH batteries (and judging by the size, not a lot of them).  I'm sorry but there is no way this thing is going for more than an hour non-stop, two hours tops.  Not on 500wh of electricity (five cents worth of electricity) I'm still trying to figure out how they are squeezing 500 whr worth of NiMH into this tiny vehicle.

Other than that, it looks pretty cool.  However there is NO way I'm shelling out $3,000 for one. (Marty Bernard, 13/3/01)
Probably stabilized by what are called roll rate gyros.  Have been used in R/C helicopters for similar purpose for at least a decade at about $60 a pop.  Gyros sense and computers send correction adjustment signals to the traction motors.  Means whoever mentioned problems on ice is probably correct (same for a car, motorcycle, bicycle, scooter, pedestrian or anything not suspended from a sealed guideway - dig, dig).  Note that the PR info says that this little high tech "toy" is sensing and correcting a 1,000 times a second.  Nowadays that is not a big deal.  Someone please stuff that bit of information up that idiot Vuchic's whatever.  Tell him 1800 era trolleys are unbelievably obsolete.

My quick summary is that Segway is too heavy, definitely too expensive and a bit too big for use as the optimum PRT "intermodal" transit (last 1/2 mile of commuting to your house or business).  Still think a 5 lb, all composite, fold-up scooter with a 1 mile range (to keep battery weight to a minimum) that can be recharged while on the PRT makes more sense.  Lastly, don't believe the press hype that $100 million was spent to develop Segway.  Dean Kamen is not that stupid. (D. Malewicki, 12/3/01)

Information on cargo handling and traction from the Segway web site:

Payload: Passenger: 250 lbs (110 kg); Cargo: 75 lbs (34 kg);  Future Off Board Cargo Module: over 300 lbs. (135 kg) In order for Segway to be the optimal local travel solution, it has to have carrying capacity for users, packages, and cargo.

Can you use Segway HT in varying climates?Yes. Like a person walking, all that a Segway Human Transporter requires is traction to operate in any environment. The unit is completely sealed to allow it to operate in the rain and snow. The standard tires were also designed to operate on wet surfaces. Of course, just as a person wears different shoes in the snow and ice, we would recommend a higher traction tire in these types of conditions.

I read that the cost for the heavy duty Segway (80 lbs.) is $8000 or $100 per pound!!???  The econoline version (65 lbs.) is $3000 or $46 per pound.  These numbers do not seem right?  That seems a bit expensive but it may be that the price will come down with mass production.  In the long term there may be significant savings in terms of cost per mile since recharging uses about a dime's worth of electricity.  There would be additional savings in avoiding or reducing parking costs.  Cities worried about the pollution index might be willing to offer free parking for these vehicles. 

Sidewalk use would seem to be a problem.  Nevertheless, in Portland we have a number of bike lanes that would be suitable for Segway. There could be some substantial savings in road construction costs due to the minimal weight and width of the Segway if, for example, entire streets were dedicated to bike/segway lanes.  It is interesting to dream a bit.(E. Fosgard, 12/4/01)
The $ numbers you read are not "right".  There is no "right" selling price for anything - just what people will pay.

Dean Kamen is just taking profit from those who have to own the latest "cool" gimmick. Wants to recoup his development costs.  Put together the costs of computers, electric motors, gyros, rechargeable batteries, tires and gears and that simple frame and you can predict that Segway prices will probably get down to $700 or so IF he gets into a good mass production rate.

Look at the retail cost of those Razor Scooters a year ago (approx $120) and look at the prices now.  Even back then you could look at the amount of material (weight), the number of parts and manufacturing operations involved in making those scooters, compare that to the huge number of parts and relative complexity in a 10 speed bicycle (that mass merchants were all making profit selling at $100) and predict that the Scooter prices could easily get down to $29.95 and still have profit.  The Sharper Image dude who got the world's kids interested in Razor Scooters made a huge profit on each. (D. Malewicki, 12/4/01)

A low tech electric scooter does 95% of what the Segway does for 5% of the cost, and half the weight. They go 20mph. The GoPed has greater speed (30mph or more), half the weight, much greater range, and "recharges" in less than 1% of the time.

The small, powered, Razor type folding scooters take less lane space, and are much easier to stow in a trunk, or carry up a few steps. How come everyone isn't riding them around? (Daryl Oster, 12/4/01)

Please find at my answer to the same problem as the Segway is trying to solve. I invented it some years ago and it was designed by our RUF designer Thomas Dickson. Speed 20 km/t and range 20 km was the goal. It created some interest among train operators, but my RUF activities prevent me from using the necessary time on it, so it is still not reality.

I think the problem is relevant to solve even though it might take a little of the RUF market away :-(. It makes a lot of sense in connection with the maxi-ruf.

I think this problem can be solved elegantly in a simpler way ("Speedy") than the Segway. I think the Segway is a very interesting device and if I could afford it I would probably buy one :-)

The simplest solution to the above mentioned problem is to use the super computer: the human brain. It is possible to ride a very simple one wheeled bicycle - a unicycle. The brain takes care of the balancing and the legs perform as the motor. You even have the arms free. I learned it as a child and I can use the unicycle any time I want even if I am now 57. I have been driving many kilometres this way. I have even been no. 2 in a race in Copenhagen, where the participants have to drive on a unicycle and climb the round tower in Copenhagen. It takes 10 turns and I think the grade is 15%. You are not allowed to fall off the unicycle or touch the walls. Going up is hard but going down is worse. I have made it 3 times. Now my wife has forbidden me to do it. My legs were destroyed for one week every time :-(

My conclusion: I admire the technology behind the solution, but I don't think it is necessary. I personally prefer a unicycle.(Palle Jensen, 12/04/01)
The "It," "Ginger," "Segway" has had a lot of attention in the Innovative Transportation e-mail lists lately; in my opinion much more attention than it deserves in serious circles.  I see it as a beautiful job of engineering and development of an electric vehicle that is gyroscopically balanced on two wheels.  But why do that, except for the novelty of it?  It has the same number of wheels as an electric bicycle or scooter, but they are arranged laterally instead of longitudinally.  I don't see balancing a two-wheeled vehicle by machine as any gain since almost all humans can easily learn to ride a bicycle or scooter.  (Like Palle, I too can ride a unicycle.  Built my first one fifty years ago.)  I think humans can balance two-wheel vehicles much more reliably than machines can, and certainly far lighter and cheaper.  The human is going along for the ride anyway; why not let him do this simple job which comes naturally for him?  Kamen claims that controlling (balancing and steering) Segway comes naturally also.  But why pay a lot of money, add weight, increase power requirements, and reduce reliability to trade one set of natural human skill requirements for another set that really aren't all that much different?  Lean left in either type of vehicle and it turns left.  

If the battery runs down on an electric bicycle or scooter one can still coast, or even pump uphill if it also has pedals.  But when the Segway battery is dead the machine goes completely unstable and inoperable.

As an adjunct to any kind of future transportation system, I don't see any advantages or application for Segway.  The vehicle is shorter, but some bicycles and scooters can be folded to make them shorter where that is important for transport or storage.  "Segway may be more important than the Internet." or words to that effect--Ridiculous!  The one thing Ginger-It-Segway has is fantastic PR out of all proportion to the importance of the achievement.  It is the most-expensive least-reliable short-range low-speed fully-exposed single-passenger two-wheeled device with little or no baggage space.  And it would be very unstable on slick surfaces and unsafe in congested automobile traffic.  I see Segway as only a fascinating new high-cost toy for the Jet-Ski type of crowd. (F. Reynolds, 12/4/01)

Comments Regarding Applications and Relationships to Existing & Emerging Transport Technologies
(in the order received)

Seems like one potential application for Segway is that described in Chapter 9 of Tomorrow's Transportation - the Pedestrian Transport System (PTS) is an essential component of the Pedestrian Oriented Minicity (POM). Chapter 9 is available on-line at:   (J. Schneider, 12/3/01)
Seems to me that Segway might be a great way to extend the reach of suburban PRT stations. Rather than 1/4 mi being the max acceptable "walk," Segway might increase this to, say, 2-3 mi. This greatly reduces the number of stations needed while still avoiding large park-and-rides at most stations.

One wouldn't necessarily need to own a Segway. They could be "borrowable" as long as there were tightly built in locking and Lojak-like tracing features so people couldn't really steal them. This is somewhat like the "station car" concept.(Joe Shapiro, 12/3/01)
Have to admit this a really clever vehicle. Would like to know more about it. Weight, dimensions, hill climbing ability, range, energy consumption, battery replacement costs, load limits, braking, acceleration, weather robustness, is there a cargo carrying model? When will Segway racing develop?

It looks small enough to roll right into a PRT. Much easier than a bicycle. New Urbanists in their quest for "walkable" communities may be quaking in their boots, "there goes the neighborhood, er the sidewalk". Now all those ADA curb cuts will have an added use. How might conventional transit vehicles accommodate them? Badly, at least under crush loads.

Could these vehicles be adapted to function automatically on a guideway? They look eerily well adapted to Donn Fichter's original PRT concept of the 1950's.

At about 15mph and with the small foot print, the capacity of a bike path would be significant. If they become popular writing sidewalk traffic rules will be interesting. Will retailers let them inside? Will they change store aisle designs? A quick device for attaching/detaching from an auto might have an affect on auto parking lot designs, and what about Segway parking lots?

Lots of fun stuff can be envisioned with these little numbers.(Dennis Manning, 12/3/01)
Who's the target audience? In present-day cities it's hard to say.

I've scored attributes which make the car attractive, for Segway: Speed 2/10, Comfort 1/10, Convenience 4/10, Privacy 0/10, Economy 10/10, Independence 8/10 Final score: 42% so it's not present-day car drivers, then.

Look to pedestrians and cyclists? It's hard enough getting a cycle lane built in a city today. There may be a revolt if the sidewalks were converted to take motorised transport. And are these people not doing the right thing already - and staying fit too?

Disabled? Elderly? Not really. You stand up on it for extended periods, with fine motor coordination.

I also cannot remember a trip in recent times where I was not laden with stuff. Segway will not tow or push things like trolleys or trailers - think of the stability mechanism - so that's another trip it cannot make.

Who's left? Well, all the kids who got those little scooters last Christmas...

I desperately hope I'm wrong. Kamen has made all the right moves: big money, big names, the right marketing suspense. But in creating a fair weather transport medium for a single person, who is unladen and reasonably fit, is this not answering a question which can only be asked some time in the distant future, in a habitat not yet built? (Char du Toit, 12/3/01)
I would go as far as to say this is an important breakthrough, if it really works as advertised. The major breakthrough has already been underway, which is the problem of putting enough power storage into a small enough package to be used for a personal vehicle.

I have the Giant "La Free" electric bicycle, which goes 30 miles at 20 mph on a charge, without any human power. For legal reasons, you still have to pedal limply so that it can be sold under the guise of a "bicycle". It's fun but in the future, I think it will be seen as very prototype-like because it is pretty heavy (60 lbs).

I envision a whole lineup of such personal electric vehicles from the very small skateboard-like (Segway) to improved wheelchairs and bicycles. Nike currently sells retractable-wheeled shoes, and these could be made electric too. Batteries will improve, and eventually mini fuel cells with swappable hydrogen packs will hugely increase the power and range.

The problem as always with personal wheels is that the world isn't built on the level. If Segway gets big, provisions of the ADA will start being important to the rest of us. Imagine these three plausible things happening together and what that would mean:

1. Mini fuel cells/H packs allow several varieties of 5-pound personal wheels with a range of 20 miles.

2. PRT is built.

3. Cities are gradually reconstructed without steps.

Wow! (Ian Ford, 12/3/01)
I can think of a lot of things that would have to be changed to make them safe, but in low speed indoor use like the POM idea, hmmm? Then there is the old pallet idea. Donn Ficther's vehicles were phone booth shaped. The idea was maximum space savings in environs of NYC. The Segway would fit right into one of them, but still be usable by regular pedestrians. I can see problems of course, but this Segway thing is just about tweaking the imagination. I wonder what would happen if you hooked them in tandem?

For a market, I'm wondering how they would stack up against a bicycle. Would seem to have some advantages, such as not working up a sweat on the way to work. Also a better shape in many situations. (Dennis Manning, 12/03/01)
When I speculated about Segway expanding transit access area I didn't have the weight figure. At 60 pounds I don't think it will appeal to very many people to put it on a transit vehicle. Would probably be a nuisance to park at destination also. Could encourage a few new riders if stations provided Segway parking.

Like many other commentors I have concerns about safety of vehicle in day to day use - slippery surfaces, running into things, lack of rider protection, etc. Putting another vehicle with different characteristics into an already confused traffic situtation of cars, bikes, skate boards, and pedestrians appears hazardous. Still, since it does have different operating characteristics, I can see niches for its use. Thinking out loud:

Meter maids, postmen, airport personnel, expeditors, some police beats, getting around large campuses, remote parking access, parking valets, racing or some sport use, golf cart substitute, parade vehicle, .... Will be interesting to see how it sells and how it is used.(D. Manning, 12/4/01)

I believe it is quite evident that as scooter technology improves, they will be more widely used to supplement transit mobility. Below is my comparison of the recently announced Segway to what is probably its closest sibling, the electric Xootr eX3 (

 SEGWAY* XOOTR   Winner (and the percentage by which it leads)
Range:  12mi    12mi    Tie
Speed:  12mph   17mph   Xootr (50%)
Weight: 65lbs   20lbs   Xootr (225%)
Price:  $3000   $1000   Xootr (200%)
Available: 2003 Now     Xootr
Execrise: No    Yes     Xootr
Turn Raduis: 0" ~80in   Segway
MxSlope:  20%   10%     Segway (just guessing on the Segway)
Weather: Good   Bad     Segway

Looking at the hard numbers, the Xootr wins on all counts. But the advantages of the Segway are in its qualities, not in its numbers. Due to its larger tires and electronic stability enhancements, the Segway will provide better performance on all types of surfaces and in all conditions (sidewalk bumps, snow, ice, stairs, gravel, sand, etc.). It's the go-anywhere ATV of electric scooters. The Segway is more comfortable, safe, and reliable in all kinds of weather. For those who are unable to walk the distance to their bus stop (such as my girlfriend's mom, who can't walk the six blocks to the bus stop due to back problems), the Segway might provide a means by which they can use transit.

The Xootr, on the other hand, requires a little more agility and caution. It must ride on a smooth surface...and if you aren't paying attention, a small roadway defect can send you flying off with injuries. It can't ride in gravel, sand, rain, snow, ice, stairs, or potholes (however, some can learn to ollie over small obstacles). You'll need to have an alternative available for those damp days. But on the plus side, it's here today, and it doubles as a push scooter to give you a workout. It is faster, cheaper, lighter, but suited to those who are more physically capable.

The lighter-weight Xootr will be easier to carry on a bus, although the Segway won't be too bad on level-entry vehicles such as monorail, low-floor buses, and low-floor LRT. In short, the Segway is more like a mountain bike (good for all conditions), while the Xootr is more of a street/racing bike (lighter & faster).

Both of these personal transporters will help expand the reach of public transit, each in their own ways. We should keep these mobility aids in mind when planning station locations and layouts.

For this comparison, I'm referencing the limited information about the proposed consumer-grade Segway model that will be released in about a year, since that is the one that transit users are most likely to use in the future (i.e., not the $8000/80lbs model for the postal service and park rangers). (R. Rutherford, 12/6/01)
Congratulations to Deam Kamen for his belief in car-free  city centres. But how can so thoughtful an engineer develop a vehicle which so conflicts with car-free areas where people want to walk in an environment uncluttered by hostile vehicles.After all his vehicle, as a concept in not new. Kysor Industrial Corporation  sold little electric scooters for use in car parks, airports or large factories 40 years ago( see my book New Movement in Cities 1966). Admittedly these were slow, only 3-8 mph while Segways are faster, but they were much narrower and just about  useable in uncrowded areas such as sidewalks, which Segways are not. Moreover they were light, while Segways are heavy to lift up ones front  steps. In fact they weigh around twice that of a good bike. With a large bag, lights and brakes they might be useful for postmen or delivery firms and they are clearly fun to ride on although their cost makes them little more than a rich man's playmobile- and not much else. Sorry Dean. 
Comment by Brian Richards, Architect. Author of Future Transport in Cities, published by Spon Press December 2001 (12/9/01)



Last modified: December 09, 2001