The famous Segway two-wheel self-balancing personal transporter is stopping production in mid-July, the company has announced.
Once touted as the ‘future of mobility’ and a product that would revolutionise the way individuals moved around, demand has dwindled. It now only accounts for around 1.5% of company revenue as electric scooters rise in popularity.
Popular with cops and security companies
More correctly known as the Segway PT in order to distinguish the personal transporter from the US-based company of the same name that developed it, the PT became popular with many police forces, private security companies and tour operators around the world.
However, the dream of inventor Dean Kamen to create simple eco-friendly mass mobility never materialised.
“Our inspiration for the name Segway came from the word segue, which is defined as ‘to transition smoothly from one state to another’, the company says on its website. “Segway transforms a person into an empowered pedestrian, allowing him/her to go farther, move more quickly and carry more.”
Price has been a big impediment to success
Cost has been a big factor in the lack of uptake. Indeed, only a relatively modest 140 000 units have been sold in 19 years of production.
At launch in 2001 the price was US$5 000, a princely sum out of reach of ordinary people. The PT is also too big to easily ride on the pavements of large cities without interfering with pedestrians and other traffic.
Another problem has been the relative difficulty of learning to ride one. The rider must balance at a specific angle for the vehicle to move forward. If the rider’s weight shifts too much in any direction, it can go out of control.
Segway has a history of high-profile accidents
Going out of control is never a good thing for any kind of vehicle, particularly as the Skegway PT offers minimal protection and any accident is likely to cause the rider to be thrown off.
Less than a year after buying the company 2009, British millionaire Jimi Heselden died after his Segway went off a cliff near his country estate in West Yorkshire.
Former US president George W Bush fell off a Segway at his parents’ summer home in Maine but was uninjured.
In 2015 there was a bizarre incident when a TV cameraman on a Segway ran over sprinter Usain Bolt in 2015 as he did a victory lap after winning a 200m race in Beijing. Fortunately Bolt wasn’t injured and later joked about the incident.