It’s been over a decade since the Segway rolled into our world, fuelled by hype, speculation and a powerful electric motor.
In this article we look back at how the Segway came to be, the eco-friendly technology behind it, how it works, the different ways in which it’s been banned as well as the various ways in which it’s being used – And hopefully how the Segway will eventually have a bright future as a fast and environmentally friendly mode of personal transport.
The Segway was unveiled in 2001 on TV show Good Morning America and ridden around Bryant Park in New York. However, there has been unexpected buzz about the personal transport prior to release due to the invention, development, and financing of the Segway being the subject of a narrative nonfiction book, Code Name Ginger by journalist Steve Kemper.
As a result, Ginger, IT and other early names for the Segway were parodied and hypothesised by everyone and everything from Steve Jobs to South Park.
The Segway went on to appear in all manner of movies and television shows while governments around the world began to restrict or outright ban its use.
How it Works
Based around Dean Kamen’s balancing technology, the Segway balances with the help of dual computers that run proprietary software, two tilt sensors and five gyroscopic sensors.
Meanwhile the electric motors are powered by phosphate based lithium ion batteries, which can be charged by plugging the Segway into a wall socket. The servo drive motors then rotate the wheels forwards or backwards to maintain balance or propel the Segway forwards.
The Segway can then be driven (and steered) by shifting bodyweight. The Segway then detects the change in the balance point, and adjusts the speed. It also varies the speeds between the two motors, rotating the Segway.
It’s fairly complicated to explain in exact detail, but Segways are incredibly easy to drive simply through a combination of leaning and turning. The sensors and balancing gyroscopes take care of the rest, making for a very smooth and natural feeling ride.
Eco Friendly Personal Transport
Obviously, as an electric powered light motor vehicle, the Segway is incredibly eco-friendly. There are no emissions and no waste. It just needs charging by plugging into the mains of your house.
Segways will cover a distance of up to 8 miles on a full charge and it takes roughly 6 hours to fully charge a completely flat Segway battery.
For example a set of Segway batteries costs $600 and you should get 450 full charges out of them, with each charge taking you approximately 7.5 miles. So a set of batteries will carry you 3,375 miles. That works out as 18 cents per mile.
So while a Segway is expensive to buy, the cost of running one is surprisingly low compared to running a petrol driven car.
Since the first Segway was unveiled in 2001 there have been various models made, from the traditional Segway designed for paths, pavements and grass to the off road Segway designed for rougher, tougher terrain.
Meanwhile, Segways are used in some theme parks by visitors and employees, some cities offer Segway tours to tourists and some special police forces have even been trained to use the Segway for greater mobility.
However, due to its size, weight and speed, the Segways has encountered resistance from governments around the world who identify it as a light motor vehicle. But this hasn’t stopped companies from offering all manner of segway experiences hosted on either private land or in designated areas of the major cities.
Whether as a personal transport, mobility aid, light motor vehicle or off road vehicle, the Segway has countless uses to get a person from A to B either for fun or for function.
Unfortunately, here in the UK the Segway is classified as a powered vehicle and subject to Road Traffic law. And because it doesn’t meet the required safety standards, it is illegal to drive on both the roads and footpaths.
This is because riders are too exposed to mix with general traffic on a road, while being too fast, heavy and dangerous to other users on footpaths or cycle paths. As a result, the only place you can ride a Segway is on private property.
However, with the Segway’s growing popularity, more and more countries are overturning these bands and reducing these restrictions. Meanwhile, with every restriction that’s lifted, the popularity and increasing general use of the Segway continues to grow.
At this rate, perhaps we’ll all be riding Segways to work in the next decade or so?