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Segway

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The Segway Personal Transporter was originally designed and developed by Dean Kamen to act as a unique two-wheeled transportation device with self-balancing features. One of the original goals of this design was to replace cars as the primary means of transportation around the city. Although quite ambitious at the time, the Segway has proven that it really did have the potential to meet this goal. With an electric motor that can reach around 12.5 miles per hour, the Segway PT certainly was a practical alternative to conventional vehicles, even though it doesn't share many of the same benefits of a conventional car.

Despite its effectiveness, however, the device has raised a lot of eyebrows when it was first released to the public. Considering the small and unusual design of the Segway PT, it was generally considered to be a little odd and perhaps even a little impractical. Despite these initial misgivings, Segways are now used everywhere in the world. There are even special Segway tours in some cities which involve sight seeing tourist attractions using Segway Personal Transports as the vehicle of choice. In certain countries, police officers are also trained to use these devices and use them in the field instead of conventional vehicles, like motorcycles and cars.

However, the Segway's rise to popularity was a long one. Since its introduction in 2001, the Segway PT has attracted a lot of attention, both good and bad. Despite its promise of better transportation, its gradual introduction to various countries was relatively difficult, and one which often involved a lot of regulations and suspicions.

Nevertheless, the Segway has reached a certain degree of popularity and is acquiring more and more users each year. To understand how this rise took place, and how the device has become popular, it's important to examine the history of the Segway Personal Transport and its gradual development.

The Origins of The Segway PT

The Segway PT was revealed to the public for the first time on December 3, 2001, in Bryant Park, a public park in Manhattan. The device was well promoted, and it aired on the ABC news program, Good Morning America. Although the initial release of the product was met with a certain degree of skepticism, the device has actually been around for quite some time and has been developed over several years.

In fact, the Segway Personal Transport was originally called by other names, including Ginger and IT. These devices were also based on Kamen's original balancing technology, which at that time was known as the iBOT wheel chair, which in turn was developed with the help of the University of Plymouth, along with BAE Systems as well as Sumitomo Precision Products.

Incidentally, the iBot was also known by another name, Fred Upstairs, which was a pun on the name of Fred Astaire, the famous American stage and film dancer. The nickname was the result of the iBot's impressive ability to climb stairs. When a successor product was eventually developed, the new device was called Ginger, after Ginger Rogers, who was Astaire's dancing partner in many of his films. The Segway PT's original design was the product of these previous devices, and they were instrumental in its development as an effective means of transport.

The production and development of the Segway has been the subject of a few works, including a nonfiction book called “Code Name Ginger” by Steve Kemper. Leaked information from this book was one of the reasons why the Segway became quite popular prior to its release. There were even speculations back then that the Personal Transport is the new “IT” device that will revolutionize modern transportation. Prior to and after its release, several articles and reviews about the Segway PT were posted online. Some were positive, while others were relatively skeptical about the device's niche in the transportation market. As expected, the unexpected buzz around the as yet unreleased product led to a lot of hyperbolic expectations.

For example, at that time, Steve Jobs was quoted to have said both positive and critical comments about the device prior to its release. Also, John Doerr was reported to have speculated that the new device could be as ground breaking as the Internet. There was even a Southpark episode, which made fun of the device and its usefulness.

The Gradual Popularization Of The Segway PT

Since its release on December 2001, the Segway Personal Transporter has certainly gone a long way. Today, this method of transportation is used in various countries in Europe, Asia, Oceania, the Middle East and North and South America. Since then, Segway has evolved to meet the needs of its emerging market, creating new models and features in order to convince their customers into using a Personal Transportation device to get around. New designs are now being developed in order to provide users with additional features, such as the ability to travel through rough terrain, provide better maneuverability and use up less energy.

Furthermore, it's also worth mentioning that as the Segway PT became more and more popular in certain countries, its use became more and more regulated. In Japan, for example, the Segway is considered a motorcycle (and is subject to the same laws which govern such vehicles) due to its power output. In Croatia, Segways are only allowed within city limits where pedestrian and bicycles are allowed (i.e. parks, sidewalks and bicycle paths). In certain states and municipalities in the United States, Segways are banned from use on sidewalks and inside public transportation, although they are allowed on bicycle lanes as well as on roads that have very low speed limits.

Differences in regulation and attitudes about the Segway only proves that it is a device that a lot of people feel strongly about. In fact, in most developed countries, there are now several debates on whether the Segway PT should be considered a medical device which can be used by people with disabilities. However, one might feel about these issues, these are just some of the topics that were brought up as the Segway PT was introduced to the buying public.

About Segway

Segway PT (personal transport) is a self balancing, two wheeled, green, personal transportation vehicle powered using electrical batteries. It is designed and marketed by Segway Inc of New Hampshire, USA. While the company was founded at a time when the very idea of a two wheeled electrical vehicle was generally scoffed at, the company soldiered on and today it is the undisputed market leader in the vibrant, though still nascent field of small electric vehicles (SEVs).

The name Segway is derived from the Italian word “segue” to mean smooth transition from one state to another. Segue directly translated to English, though equates to “follows”.

Before the Segway Became Reality

Segway Inc. and its innovative transportation vehicles are the brainchild of Dean L. Kamen, an inventor and entrepreneur from New Hampshire. He is the son of Jack Kamen, who was an illustrator with such EC Comics publications as Mad, Weird Science. Kamen came up with the concept of a highly efficient, personal transportation vehicle with zero emission back in 1999. He already knew the concept could work based on his previous work on dynamic stabilization technology. Right from the start, Kamen was committed to the development of devices which required minimal space, had the capacity for extensive maneuverability and, crucially, devices which could operate safely and effectively on pathways and sidewalks.

Before Segway Inc. was unveiled at the turn of the millennium, it was previously known variously as Ginger and IT When it was known as Ginger, the company was developing the iBot, a self balancing wheelchair. The electric powered wheelchair was the first successful personal transporter invented by Kamen. The iBot was developed at the University of Plymouth in conjunction with Sumitomo Precision Products and BAE systems. The iBot was nicknamed Fred Upstairs, a tongue-in-cheek pun on Fred Astaire, the late Hollywood and Broadway star, as it was designed to climb stairs as well as moving on flat surfaces. The company name of Ginger also came from the same association with Fred Astaire (Ginger Rogers was Astaire's regular dancing partner and romantic interest).

Unveiling the Segway PT

Before the personal transport vehicle was unveiled in the early days of December of 2001, there was plenty of publicity and speculation in the press. Indeed, the story of the Kamen's invention, development of the vehicle and financing was detailed in a nonfiction book, “Code Name Ginger” written by Journalist Steve Kemper. Code Name Ginger was also published in paperback as “Reinventing the Wheel”. It was also serialized in the respected TIME Magazine.

The information about the device leaked in the book only served to create hype and intense buzz prior to the official unveiling. One of the more hyperbolic tidbits was a quote ostensibly by Steve Jobs saying, ”… the Segway PT is going to be as big a deal as the personal computer.”

Industrial Recognition and Commercial Success

In early 2002, the first pre-production Segway PTs rolled off the production floor. At about the same time, the New Hampshire state assembly passed the first state bill allowing the use of Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices (EPAMDs) on sidewalks into law. Similar legislation had been passed in 31 states by the end of that year.

By March of 2002, Segway Inc. had auctioned off three limited edition Segways on the online auction site Amazon.com and the proceeds went to finance FIRST, a not-for-profit organization founded by Dean Kamen to promote the use of science and technology in solving everyday problems. By November 2002, Segway PTs were being sold to the general public.

In 2003 the United States' Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded a contract to Segway Inc. to convert a total of 15 PTs to Robotic Mobility Platforms (RMPs). The platforms were meant for use as reliable and cost effective tools in research institutions. TIME Magazine featured the Segway four wheel ATV concept prototypes in the December 2004 issue as the one of the best innovations of 2004. The Segway won the accolade owing to the use of cutting edge engineering and proven technology.

Segway at the 2006 Winter Olympics

With the Segway brand attaining global recognition, the company became an official partner of the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. The games organizing committee worked with Segway's Italian distributor to provide 20 special edition Segway PTs to the games. The personal transporters were used to provide efficient means for members of the organizing committee to commute between the three Olympic villages in Turin, Sestriere and Bardonecchia.

P.U.M.A.

In April 2009, Segway Inc. collaborated with General Motors (GM) to develop the P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) prototype, a personalized transport vehicle meant to address the problem of urban congestion by leveraging dynamic stabilization technology and zero emission transportation. 2011, being the year the company was set to mark a decade of success, was particularly productive on many fronts. The company began by unveiling the “Segway Experience Center Program.” Targeting popular tourist locations, the program aims to showcase the versatility of the company's personalized transporters. In the same year, the company organized a very successful, “Patrolling Across America” tour, visiting well over a hundred police departments across the United States to showcase how the transporters could be useful to officers on patrol.

Segway Sponors MotoCzysz Racing

It was also in 2011 that the company became the title sponsor of the MotoCzysz Racing, the well known electric motorcycle racing team. The team finished second in the Isle of Man TT Zero Race and won the USBA/TTXGP Event. By the end of 2012, Segway had established well over 250 distributors around the world. The company international marketing strategy revolves around three service center hubs in the United States, Germany and Singapore.

Segway Inc. Acquired by Summit Strategic Investments

In 2013, Segway Inc. was acquired by Summit Strategic Investments and the company set out with plans to advance its product portfolio aggressively. By mid 2013, the company had announced plans to launch a new 3 wheeled personal transportation device for the public retail market.


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