The Segway, invented by Dean Kamen, is a uniquely self-balancing two wheeled transport device. Using hi-tech gyroscopics it balances you on a platform one foot off the ground, and drives at speeds up to 25km/h – which you activate by leaning forward. Lean back and it slows or stops, tilt a wrist or lean from side to side ( depending on which model you have) and there you have it – a fully functioning hoverboard ( albeit with a AU$ 8-9000 price tag ). Victorian distributor Michael Mote ( of Segway Southern Cross ) loaned one overnight, and was kind enough to also answer the questions below. ( Click for the photo collage that resulted – featuring a red vinyl lobster and members of 3 melbourne bands – denim owl, bum creek and aleks & the ramps)
How do you quickly describe the device to people unaware of it?
This is a Segway Personal Transporter. A single person short haul device. If your needs are for a single person, a short range trip, then this might meet your needs.
Your first ride on a Segway – what did it feel like?
Magic! It’s like it’s connected to my brain, and it obeys my thoughts.
Is there much of a learning curve for riding one?
It takes about 90 seconds to get the hang of a Segway, and about an hours practice to get really competent. Compare this with the Vic Roads campaign suggesting that 120 HOURS is the minimum a car driver should practice before being let out solo.
How safe is a Segway, and its gyroscopic self-balancing mechanism?
A Segway is inherently safe. It can safely operate even after a failure of an important part of the machine. It is intuitively controlled, easy to learn and much safer to use than say a car or a motorcycle. You never forget, even in an emergency, how to stop or avoid an obstacle. That’s the elegance of intuitive control, as compared to the contrived control ( pedal, levers etc ) on cars and motorcycles.
Why would someone enjoy owning a Segway?
It’s modern and efficient. My car and I weigh about 1500 Kg, yet my Segway and I weigh 150 Kg or less. Any way you analyse it, that’s tenfold less energy required to get me where I need to go. It also creates a sense of community, people say ‘G’Day’ and smile lots. That never happens when I drive. I get to smell the roses, that never happens either when I drive.
What legal barriers exist for the Segway in Australia?
If I confine myself to Victoria (there are relevant State and Federal laws), I believe a Segway is well within both the intent and letter of current Victorian Law. ( I can’t speak for them, but I think that Vic Roads have a different belief ). I’ve travelled many kilometres around Melbourne, and other parts of Victoria, without issue. If I were to get a ‘ticket’ for doing ‘something wrong’ I would most likely challenge it. That way an independent judge can hear my interpretation of the law, and the authorities interpretation, and a clearer decision would be made.
What hopes are there for overcoming these barriers?
If my interpretation of the law is correct, there’s no barrier. If incorrect, then the ‘community’ will have to assess this question. The Segway PT is a fabulous machine, clean, green, compact and with lots of other desirable characteristics. When pollution, congestion and global warming make headlines daily, ‘community’ assessment is likely to be positive.
What’ve been some unusual / interesting anecdotes from customers / segway users?
Probably the nicest ones come from people with disabilities. The beam on their faces after they feel the wind in their hair is simply priceless.
Jobe from the US sitcom Arrested Development rides a Segway. Who’d you like to see riding a Segway on Australian TV?
I saw ‘Arrested’ – pity they dubbed a most ‘unSegway like’ sound over it. The Prime Minister, Minister for Transport, or Minister for Roads travelling to their next Press conference, and on the nightly news. Or the shadow Ministers.
Why has the Segway failed to set the world alight, and what has Segway learnt from that?
Market penetration is actually somewhat similar to that of micowave ovens, or even mobile phones at the 3 year point. Early projections were a bit high – that happens sometimes with new and exciting products. Tell me your thoughts after 1 hour of using a Segway – are you ‘alight’ ?
Are the innovations of the Segway utilised in other contexts?
Sure there’s lots of industrial applications. Many based on the Segway robotic platforms. Then of course, there’s the iBot.
What lies in store for the evolution of the Segway?
I always look forward to visiting the Segway factory, they never fail to impress me. I’m sure their next products will too.
So what’s your experience of it seamus? Is it kooky fun machine or what?
its actually surprisingly intuitive to ride… the balancing gyroscope activates the motors to readjust 50 times a second… so its like standing on a plank that is floating on 5cm of water… the loaned segway was capped at 10km/h unfortunately, but could go to 25km/h… which’d be much nicer…. and it was an older model, the newer model which i had a ride of at the distributors house has a bar in the middle which u lean from side to side to turn, so its like skiing…. this older model turned using wrist motion on the handlebars – clockwise wrist twist to go right, or anti to go left…
expensive materials, but if they became cheap much more sensible for populations to own than cars… hard to shake feeling dorky on them though…. u thinking of getting one for the farm? ( they have offroad models too ; )