Segway and GM team up for two-wheeled urban ‘car’

7 Apr 2009

It’s not a bike, it’s not a car, and it’s not even a Segway, or at least one we’ve seen before. The PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) is only in prototype stage right now, but it is being hailed as the urban transport of the future.

With less carbon emissions, less traffic jams and more mobility, General Motors (GM) and urban transportation device manufacturer Segway hope to solve the world’s congestion problems with the PUMA.

Weighing 300lbs, the unusually shaped PUMA incorporates Segway’s two-wheel balance technology and is fully electric, capable of reaching 35 miles per hour while lasting for 35 miles on a single charge.

The PUMA will be unveiled today in New York city as part of the New York International Auto Show, and while many might be thinking that this technology costs vast amounts of money in research, according to the New York Times, Larry Burns, GM’s vice-president for research and development and strategic planning, said that the prototype cost “only one half of one percent of GM’s typical engineering budget” for one year.

It doesn’t take up much space: you can fit six PUMAs into a regular parking space, and while the vehicle has the traditional Segway’s two wheels, from the front it looks more like a rickshaw than anything else, and from the side it resembles a motorised wheelchair.

Jim Norrod, CEO of Segway, said of the new PUMA prototype: “There’s an emotional connection you get when using Segway products. The Project PUMA prototype embodies this completely through the combination of dynamic stabilisation, seamless drive-by-wire controls and sophisticated battery systems to complete the connection between the rider, environment and others.”

By Marie Boran