After almost a year of hype and intense media scrutiny, today inventor Dean Kamen revealed that he will market the device previously known as Ginger--or simply It--as the Segway, a gyroscope-enabled scooter that might very well revolutionize personal transportation, especially in crowded urban areas. Although even its genius inventor admits that the Segway will never live up to its over-inflated and speculative advance billing, the device is a clever answer to a transportation problem that we currently address with the automobile. But the automobile, with its huge size and dangerously polluting emissions, is unsuited to transporting individuals in crowded areas. Kamen says that the Segway will replace cars in such cases.
"\[The Segway\] will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy," Kamen said in an exclusive Time Magazine interview published today. "Cars are great for going long distances. But it makes no sense at all for people in cities to use a 4000-pound piece of metal to haul their 150-pound \[bodies\] around town." Kamen's Segway is a two-wheeled, battery-powered scooter that uses advanced electronics and a gyroscope to transport people safely at speeds up to 17 miles per hour. Backed by more than 100 patents, the Segway has no brakes or acceleration pedals. Instead, the user simply thinks about which direction to turn or move; the device responds to subtle body shifts and moves appropriately. Users can slow down or speed up just by thinking about doing so, and the Segway will respond accordingly. And you can't easily knock over the Segway or inadvertently let it fall over. Riders who are roughly shoved while using the Segway will stay upright, thanks to its sophisticated self-righting technology. Kamen designed the device to act as an extension of the rider's body, and it easily handles rough terrain, ice, snow, and even stairs.
People who have already tested the device, including Intel Chairman Andy Grove and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, say that the Segway works as advertised and is going to change the world, a sentiment its inventor shares. "Nothing has happened at the level of the pedestrian to improve transportation since we invented the sneaker," Kamen says. "If you could integrate the Segway technology into cities, it would be a universal win for everybody."
Federal Express (FedEx), the National Parks Service, the US Postal Service, United Parcel Service (UPS), and several other US and international agencies are already testing the Segway in hopes of making their workers more efficient. Industrial-strength versions of the Segway will initially cost about $5000 each; consumer-oriented versions will go for $3000 when they become available in about a year.