The Segway turned 10!

It wasn’t that long ago that inventor Dean Kamen believed his two-wheeled personal transportation device, the Segway, would revolutionize transportation.  Unfortunately, the Segway has grown to be synonymous with technology failure.  Kamen imagined a future filled people zipping around town on a Segway PT scooter to run errands and commute to work.

That vision hasn’t quite come to fruition and it’s pretty infrequent that you see someone using a Segway. They’re still around and have recently observed their 10th anniversary. So while they may be named a tech failure, they are still alive and kicking.

How do they work though? Below we’ll examine the tech behind the Segway.

Powering the Segway

The Segway PT is powered by electric motors.  Those motors are fueled by a number of lithium-ion batteries that are easily charged by a standard household electrical socket. Five gyroscopic sensors, two tilt sensors, and two computers with specialty software keep the Segway from tipping over.

Making the Segway Move

Users play a role in making the Segway work too. When riders need to go forward, they move a control bar away from their body. If they want to move in reverse, they move the same control bar closer to their body. The Segway notices a change in its balance point and adjusts the speed to keep its riders balanced.  To steer, riders tilt a handlebar in the direction in which they need to move. Today’s Segway PT can move up to 12.5 miles an hour. It functions best, of course, in communities that feature lots of sidewalks and other areas where the Segway can properly motor.

Lowered Expectations

The device never did live up to its hype. Many technology experts predicted the Segway PT would be a bigger deal than the Internet. Therefore, when company officials presented the first Segway scooter in December of 2001 in Manhattan, expectations soared.

Unfortunately, once the Segway was released many thought it looked weird and you looked bizarre riding one. Others thought it looked dangerous. Regardless, the negatives were enough to keep the Segway from reaching its promised potential.


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