The Segway moves - but not its sales


Last week, we presented Renault’s new zero-emission vehicle: the Renault Twizy. Currently, Renault is organising numerous promotional events all around Europe. Creating a pre-release marketing buzz is desirable, but only time will tell whether a new form of mobility eventually finds its place on the market. And for the Segway, finding a market place turned out to be a bit of a dilemma. But first things first: it’s this rather awkward self-stabilising scooter-like device you’d expect to transport Jar Jar Binks and his friends around the universe. Nevertheless, when the Segway PT (personal transporter) came out in 2001, respectable technology Messiahs such as Steve Jobs predicted that it would revolutionise the way we move. And now, more than 11 years later, we still grin at the tilted people zooming along. Why?

The Segway – Marvellous engineering

To come right to the point, the Segway could be a brilliant business mobility vehicle. It’s incredibly easy to manoeuvre, its electric engine is as quiet as night-time in the countryside, and it takes up no more space than a walking person. The maximum range is around 38 km with a top speed of 20 km/h (8 km/h faster than London’s traffic on average[1]), enough for commuting to work. The icing on the cake, however, is the sheer never-ending driving pleasure the Segway gives. Five gyroscopic sensors measure the body position relative to the ground 100 times per second.[2] This means that the Segway takes you in whichever direction you lean towards. Reviews suggest that it is the sensation of freedom the Segway embodies that makes it so addictive to drive.

Why don't you have a Segway?

So, having clarified this, we should ask ourselves again: why are the masses not using this quick, simple, and clean business mobility mode? To answer this seemingly perplexing question we must look at the Segway’s competitors, such as the bicycle and the scooter. And here the one major problem becomes clear: the Segway is too expensive. The current price is 5990 €, so it can’t compete with the bicycle, a normal scooter you can even use on the highway, or simply one’s own feet. If the Segway were a tenth of its official price, surely more people would consider it to be an affordable mobility choice. But at this price, you might as well buy a well-kept second hand car, which allows you to do so many more things.

The Segway has found its purpose

Although the Segway’s hype was understandable, it never got the status it was supposed to reach. Yet, it has found its place in certain markets. The Segway is used by security, police, and even the military all around the world. You can see officials whizzing about at airports or at big events.[3] The tourism industry benefits from the Segway as well.[4] It is an adventurous and fun way to explore a city, especially as you can go on tours in groups. The Segway has thus managed to fill certain market niches. In order to be a business mobility mode, however, the Segway must become more affordable. Currently, Segway is in cooperation with General Motors and a prototype of a two-seater called P.U.M.A has just been developed.[5] Excitingly, Segway is likely to come up with new modes of urban transport that could change the way we see business mobility.

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