Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Segway with roof and a seat

General Motors is working with Segway, maker of upright, self-balancing scooters, to build a new type of two-wheeled vehicle designed to move easily through congested urban streets.

The machine (Project PUMA, Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), which GM says it aims to develop by 2012, would run on batteries and use wireless technology to avoid traffic backups and navigate cities.

GM and Segway say the vehicle could allow people to travel around cities more quickly, safely, quietly and cleanly, and at a lower total cost.

The struggling auto maker, surviving on a government lifeline, is looking to generate enthusiasm for its appearance at the New York auto show this week.

GM has slashed product-development programs, advertising and spending on auto show events, but it will have PUMA on the streets of Manhattan today to show off.

The Segway Personal Transporter was launched with considerable hype eight years ago but practical issues prevented the scooter from becoming a mass-market product, including its relatively high cost and restrictions on its use in many jurisdictions.

GM is betting PUMA's more car-like traits -- an enclosed compartment and top speed of 35 miles per hour -- will lead to better results. GM didn't say how much the machines would cost, but research chief Larry Burns said owners would spend one-third to one-fourth of the cost of a traditional vehicle.

PUMA would have a range of about 35 miles. GM said it aims to use so-called vehicle-to-vehicle technology to avoid traffic problems and potentially have it navigate itself through city streets. Info and photo from The Wall Street Journal)

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