Segway Puma – two seats on two wheels

7 April 2009

Segway Puma on New York streetsYou don’t see many Segway scooters in the UK, and we’re not sure that the prospect of the Segway Puma is likely to change that situation. UK Segway riders exist in a legal limbo – their upright, lawnmower-like ride is not legal for road use and shouldn’t be used on the public pavement either – and the £4,800 price tag of the standard Segway i2 is steep enough to deter all but the most ardent technophile.

So the Puma (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) could change all that, but probably won’t. Puma takes the Segway concept of two-wheeled, self-balancing, gravity-defying, zero-turning-circle electric transport and adds a pair of seats and a roof. Like other Segways, the Puma uses weight shifting to trigger acceleration and braking in a smooth and uncanny fashion. Instead of standing on a platform and shifting your bodyweight, though, you slide the whole cab backwards and forwards on runners by pushing and pulling on the kind of steering-wheel-on-a-stick usually seen in the cockpits of airliners.

As well as carrying twice as many people as a standard Segway i2, Puma will also travel twice as far and go twice as fast, which means 25 to 35mph and a range of 25 to 35 miles. At about 135kg it is three times as heavy as the i2, and is clearly much more road biased than the sidewalk-suited original.

But all of these things are academic, because the Puma looks as unlikely to change the world as the original project “Ginger”. It’s currently a one-off prototype, it faces a thicket of legislative and safety brambles, and it already has the whiff of death about it – the Puma is being co-developed by that shambling animated corpse called General Motors.

But despite all the above negativity, we really would like to see the Segway Puma make it onto the market. We can’t help thinking that driving the Puma looks like quite a lot of fun, in the same way that hanging onto the neck of a startled horse can be fun, especially when viewed in hindsight.

So if someone offered us a ride or a drive in a Puma we’d bite their arm off. And we’d worry about emergency stops and crash protection 35 miles later, after the batteries had run out.

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