This is the sort of story that might have passed for an April Fools’ joke a few days ago, but it is the real deal: personal transporter pioneer Segway has partnered with beleaguered U.S. automaker General Motors to develop a new working concept of an electric vehicle under the moniker Project P.U.M.A.. The PUMA (the acronym stands for Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) is an evolution of the technology found in the Segway Personal Transporters—but instead of being kind of a motorized two-wheeled pogo stick, the PUMA offers seats for two passengers, can move anywhere from 25 to 35 miles per hour, and offers a range of 25 to 35 miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion batteries. And, most welcome to anyone who’s ever pondered riding a Segway in the rain—it has a canopy and a windshield…although the sides are still open.
“We are excited to be working together to demonstrate a dramatically different approach to urban mobility,” said Segway CEO Jim Norrod, in a statement. “There’s an emotional connection you get when using Segway products. The Project P.U.M.A. prototype embodies this completely through the combination of dynamic stabilization, seamless drive-by-wire controls, and sophisticated battery systems to complete the connection between the rider, environment, and others.”
The PUMA uses Segway’s dynamic stabilization technology to balance on two wheels while in motion, and actually has a zero turn radius: it can sit in one place and turn completely around. The prototype features a digital dashboard with system information, smart battery management, a simple user interface (Segways really are pretty easy to use), and environmentally-friendly electric propulsion. Segway and GM see the PUMA—or projects developed from it—as a meaningful alternatives to cars, particularly for short trips in dense urban environments. The PUMA isn’t going to haul your 8×10 bass cabinet to a gig—nor are you likely to be able to trick it out with bone-shattering subwoofers—but for everyday errands and getting around, they might just have some potential. At least in cities where it doesn’t rain much.
Segway and GM are showing the prototype PUMA at the New York Auto Show; the companies haven’t announced any plans to bring products to market, or speculated on what pricing.
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