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. 


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.

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)


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. 


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.


  • mcas

    1. How much money was spent on R&D for this thing?

    ….We should have that much money returned to the Feds and re-invested in Transportation Enhancements.

    2. Also, travels @ 35 MPH = no safe way to have in a Bike Lane.

    3. Also, I just threw up in my mouth reading the DFP article: “Think Facebook on wheels,” says Burns…

  • CBrinkman

    Hysterical. All the disadvantages of a car (cost, parking, fueling), none of the advantages of a bike. This is the Segway SUV. At least you could take the Segway indoors with you to negate the parking issue.

  • m

    that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. those people are idiots.

  • Gary

    Use bike lanes? we already have problems when those rental GoCars get in the bike lane. You have to go into the traffic lane to bypass these inconsiderates, putting bikes in danger.

    Even the single person Segway is a danger in a bike lane or sidewalk. These greedy dopes.

  • jack

    Why not just allow golf carts in bike lanes?

    Hey it’s all about getting people to buy more stuff…at higher prices.

  • GRR

    I don’t think it’s worth focusing down on the practicalities and picking nits on whether they’re going to be in a bikelane. That misses a bigger story, by far. Those interested in livable streets issues should be excited by this, in that it could be seen as a *small* step toward GM thinking of itself as a transportation company, as opposed to just a car company. Now, the truth is it is likely just a PR effort, which adds a certain level of BS to the whole thing, but if I had to choose between subsidizing these over subsidizing “hybrid” SUVs, I’ll take these any day. Also consider that the more we elevate non-freeway-legal transportation as the wave of the future, the less political justification we have to build them.

    And I’d rather risk a brush on my bike with one of these than with a 3000 lb Hummer any day.

  • When I heard about this on All Things Considered this afternoon, I thought it was an April Fools holdover:
    “But, as its already-plentiful critics point out, the PUMA may make even less sense than the Segway, which never lived up to its hype. They say the PUMA doesn’t appear to be safe enough to drive on streets, and is too big and fast for sidewalks.

    GM counters that it hopes cities will set special lanes for mini-transporters like the PUMA. And it says innovative sensor technology will help prevent collisions with other vehicles, and with pedestrians.”

    Yikes, this part of the story made me think of three things:
    1. You might as well just get a bike

    2. GM really is hung up on the idea of a car-like vehicle and can’t seem to think around that idea.

    3. GM is so self-centered as to think that special infrastructure will be set aside or created for their one-of-a-kind specialized vehicle when American’s are having a hard enough time getting their minds around parallel bike infrastructure.

    I agree with the comment from GRR, that this is a PR effort but I think this move is actually more insidious. Just like their move to marginalize and destroy the electric car by producing it and then claiming it just wasn’t popular or practical. They can easily drop this project by claiming it just wasn’t popular or practical. At least they’d be right this time. But it would just be a self fulfilling prophesy.

    In December I heard Van Jones say that he thought that money going to Detroit auto makers should be used to help them retool and retrain their workforce to produce wind turbines. I thought why not light rail too? So much for that optimism.

    Personally, I’d really rather not have to dodge a PUMA or a Hummer P.O.S.

  • there’s a new concept in the automotive business
    it’s 2 seated, 2 wheeled, and too ambitious
    General Motors fearing their time is over
    is desperate to meet their innovation quota

    partnered with Segway trying to make headway
    came up with something just a little more deadly
    works like the other one except that you sit
    and ride around praying that you don’t get hit

    To listen to me rap my opinion, visit:

  • zyzzyva

    My brother just cleverly pointed out that there’s a fine line between a PUMA and a Dalek.

    Sadly, I think the likeness goes beyond aesthetics.

  • jon

    the auto industry is good at stealing infrastructure from other uses, so if i was a big time biker i’d be pretty concerned about the potential loss of bike lanes.

    check out this book about how the car stole streets from all users 80+ years ago and made them into traffic thoroughfares solely for cars.

    Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City

    probably the best market for this is for rich lazy people to drive around inside their mcmansion particularly between the tv and fridge


Still Looking for That Magic Highway

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we’re thinking about the reinvention of cars. At his blog The Bellows, Ryan Avent has written a two-part piece about how best to enable innovation in car design. His starting point is a review in The American Prospect of a new book called Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for […]

Advice for Policymakers: Time to Check Your Blind Spots

Last week, I left my Washington home, walked to the nearby Metro station, rode a train downtown, walked to the National Press Club, and settled in to hear Steven Rattner, former head of the Obama administration’s auto task force, declare that "no one has yet invented a substitute for the automobile." Steven Rattner (Photo: WSJ) […]

BART Invites Transit Bloggers to Query GM Dugger, Part I

Greg Dewar of N-Judah Chronicles, BART GM Dorothy Dugger, BART Spokesperson Linton Johnson.  Photo: Matthew Roth Last week, BART hosted a brunch meeting for Bay Area transit bloggers, explicitly acknowledging that journalism is trending away from traditional media to online and niche outlets. Organized by BART spokesperson Linton Johnson, writers from Streetsblog, The SF Appeal, […]

Today’s Headlines

SFMTA Says Taxis Can Block Bike Lanes (Taxi Town) SFCTA Board to Consider Funds for Masonic Project Today (Bike NoPa) SFPD Seeking Hit-and-Run Driver Who Hit Bike Rider in the Mission (SF Appeal) Muni Hoping New Part-Time Drivers Will Cut Ballooning Overtime (City Insider) Muni Cutting Down on Switchbacks, But Passengers Still Complaining About Practice (SF […]