Remembering the Segway. From About.com:
Dynamic Stabilization enables Segway self-balancing emulation to work seamlessly with the body’s movements. Gyroscopes and tilt sensors in the Segway HT monitor a user’s center of gravity about 100 times a second. When a person leans slightly forward, the Segway HT moves forward. When leaning back, the Segway moves back. One battery charge (cost of ten cents) lasts 15 miles and the 65-pound Segway HT can run over your toes without causing you harm.
The United States Postal Service, the National Park Service and the City of Atlanta field tested the invention. The consumer was able to buy the Segway in the year 2003 at the initial cost of $3,000.
Segway produced three distinct initial models: the i-series, the e-series, and the p-series.
However, in 2006 Segway discontinued all previous models and announced their second-generation designs; i2 and x2, that also allowed users to steer by leaning the handlebars to the right or left, which matched the leaning forward and backward to accelerate and decelerate.
So whatever happened to it? First, from 2008:
The latest flicker of promise for the Segway came when fuel prices spiked to $4 a gallon in June 2008. The company, according to the Wall Street Journal,was reporting its highest-ever sales, while individual dealerships were notching 25 percent improvements in year-over-year sales—numbers that would make Detroit envious. Unfortunately, given that Segway Inc. has to date sold only a fraction of what even a struggling GM sells in a month (according the Journal, it had sold just 23,500—total—by September 2006), the sales boost is less impressive than it seems. And gas prices, of course, have since declined again.
That estimated sales figure seems especially paltry considering inventor and CEO Dean Kamen’s 2001 claim that “the impact of this in the twenty-first century will be just like what Henry Ford did at the beginning of the twentieth century.” The Segway, he proclaimed, would “change lives, cities, and ways of thinking.”
Despite these grandiose claims, or in fact because of them, the Segway is still hampered with something of an image problem. The Onion mercilessly skewered the Segway’s breathless hype in a “Do You Remember Life Before the Segway?” segment. (“It’s almost as if stuff did happen but wasn’t important,” one panelist opines.) Commentator Thomas Frank told the New York Times that the Segway has a “redolence of New Economy foolishness. It’s as though being a responsible adult is a burden of the working class,” while moneyed knowledge-workers “get to posture as special, exalted beings of wonder and innocence.” More recently, the Segway was forced to bear the full brunt of whatever humor was present in the transcendently bad (and not-paradoxically box-office-topping) film Paul Blart: Mall Cop, with the very sight of Kevin James astride (or falling off, or crashing) his conveyance played for laughs. (And while we’re on the subject of people falling off Segways, let’s not forget W.’s highly publicized header.)
At 11:40 a.m. on 26 September 2010, West Yorkshire Police received reports of a man falling 80 feet (24 m) or 42 feet (13 m) into the River Wharfe, at the village of Thorp Arch near Boston Spa, apparently having fallen from the cliffs above. The fall from a narrow footpath was witnessed by a man walking his dog nearby. A Segway vehicle was recovered and Heselden was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. Investigators said, “At this time we do not believe the death to be suspicious” and were investigating as to “whether there was a fault with his particular machine or it was driver error”.
On 4 October 2010, at an inquest at Leeds Coroner’s Court, coroner David Hinchliff reported that a post-mortem examination had concluded that Heselden had suffered “multiple blunt force injuries of the chest and spine consistent with a fall whilst riding a gyrobike”.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff told Heselden’s family: “I think it’s probable — I think typical of Jimi and the type of man he was — he held back and waited as an act of courtesy to allow Mr Christie (a dog walker) more room. In so doing, he’s attempted to reverse the Segway back. As a result of that he’s got into difficulty.”
Still, for a while there it was a fun nerd’s toy: