GM and Segway Unveil La-Z-Boy on Wheels

Picture_10.pngA revolutionary personal mobility device. Hint: it's NOT the couple in the foreground
I'd be laughing right now if I could just stop crying.

I thought billions in taxpayer money and Wagoner's presidential dismissal were supposed to mark the end of General Motors' bad plans, and I naively hoped the company would replace Dummers with innovative thinking, dynamic product design, maybe even switch some of its production to light rail.  Silly me.

GM's solution for the future of transportation is, hold your breath, a Segway built for two.  I don't know about you, but I want my money back. 

GM and Segway announced the prototype, which they dubbed Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, or PUMA, today in New York City, where the old single-occupancy stand-up Segways are already illegal.  The wheeled chair, which GM claims will address congestion, safety, affordability, parking, and energy concerns in urban areas, gets 35 miles per charge and does 35 miles per hour, a blistering speed that makes them just slow enough to get run down by the automobile company's more traditional vehicles. 

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Unfortunately for those of us who already utilize a personal mobility device with more than 100 years proven utility and health benefits, Dave Rand, GM's Executive Director of Global Design, said on Brian Lehrer today that he thought PUMAs should be able to use bike lanes.  Lehrer was skeptical of the device, saying that the last time he heard of a transportation "revolution" was when Segways were introduced, and he noted how small a market share they currently have. 

When Rand was challenged by Lehrer on how they would fit in already dense urban areas, where carving out room for a bike lane is as difficult as it gets, Rand suggested that they would start using PUMAs on college campuses and other areas that look nothing like cities.

Given that Segways cost around $6,000, the new PUMA would likely be more expensive.  There are also concerns about safety and visibility, which GM claims they'll solve with technology links to existing OnStar systems so that the PUMAs will sense another vehicle and slow automatically, at least other vehicles with OnStar.

Rand said on Lehrer's show that users could charge the vehicle at home overnight or where it is parked during the day, the implication being that people have an easy place to plug in at night, as in, a garage.  Has Rand spent any time in a dense urban setting, where most people don't have garages?  Has he seen all those plugs coming out of the parking meters? 

So which is it?  An urban mobility device or the butt of another Kevin James joke?  (Best use of a Segway has to be Weird Al's White and Nerdy)

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GM's announcement comes a day after Ohio State released a study that found 20 percent of preschoolers are obese.  I know the mega-corporation lampooned in Disney's Wall-E was meant to be Walmart, but GM seems to be moving us a step closer to the Axiom Hover Chairs that make physical activity quaint. 

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I seem to recall from a class in high school something about us evolving to walk upright?  It's funny then that we're finding physical exercise will keep us alive longer.  Rather than figuring out the vagaries of how to incorporate an impractical new Segway into the urban realm, cities should be making more room for walking and cycling.  The good ones already have.

Speaking of that, officer can you remove that thing from our nice new pedestrian plaza?

Picture_8.pngPhoto from NY Times

I really don't know what to say to commenter JournalRhythm below, but I have to put your rap in this post.  Wow.