From The Drudge Report,
IT' REVEALED; 'SEGWAY' SELF-BALANCING PEOPLE MOVER, BILLED AS ALTERNATIVE TO CARS
After months of hype, an inventor is set to unveil an electric scooter being billed as an environmentally friendly alternative to cars.
Dean Kamen's long-awaited, secret invention, the Segway "will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy," he tells TIME on the eve of his product's unveiling.
Kamen imagines them everywhere: in parks and at Disneyland, on battlefields and factory floors, but especially on downtown sidewalks from Seattle to Shanghai. "Cars are great for going long distances," Kamen says, "but it makes no sense at all for people in cities to use a 4,000-lb. piece of metal to haul their 150-lb asses around town."
In the future he envisions, cars will be banished from urban centers to make room for millions of "empowered pedestrians" - empowered, naturally, by Kamen's brainchild, reports John Heilemann in next week's issue.
The invention is set to be unveiled Monday morning during ABC's GOOD MORNING AMERICA.
The Segway is a self-balancing people mover - powered by batteries and controlled by tilt-sensors and five solid state gyroscopes - that looks like a rotary lawnmower. The magic is in the balancing act ð no matter how hard you try, it won't let you fall.
For the past three months, Kamen allowed TIME behind the veil of secrecy as he and his team grappled with the questions that they will confront - about everything from safety and pricing to the challenges of launching a product with the country at war and the economy in recession.
There is no denying that the Segway, previously code-named "IT" and "Ginger," is an engineering marvel, reports Heilemann, who rode on the machine many times. Developed at a cost of more than $100 million, Kamenis vehicle is a complex bundle of hardware and software that mimics the human bodyis ability to maintain its balance. Not only does it have no brakes, but also no engine, no throttle, no gearshift, and no steering wheel. And it can carry the average rider for a full day, nonstop, on only five cents' worth of electricity.
Kamen explains how the Segway works: "When you walk, youire really in whatis called a controlled fall. You off-balance yourself, putting one foot in front of the other and falling onto them over and over again. In the same way, when you use a Segway, thereis a gyroscope that acts like your inner ear, a computer that acts like your brain, motors that act like your muscles, wheels that act like your feet. Suddenly, you feel like you have on a pair of magic sneakers, and instead of falling forward, you go sailing across the room."
As Kamen and his team were working on the IBOT wheelchair ð a six-wheel machine that goes up and down curbs, cruises effortlessly through sand or gravel, and climbs stairs - it dawned on them that they were onto something bigger. "We realized we could build a device using very similar technology that could impact how everybody gets around," he says. The IBOT was also the source of Gingeris mysterious codename. "Watching the IBOT, we used to say, ÈLook at that light, graceful robot, dancing up the stairsiÐso we started referring to it as Fred Upstairs, after Fred Astaire," Kamen recalls. "After we built Fred, it was only natural to name its smaller partner Ginger." With Ginger, as with the IBOT, Kamen explains, "the big idea is to put a human being into a system where the machine acts an extension of your body."
With the Segway, Kamen plans to change the world by changing how cities are organized. To Kamenis way of thinking, the problem is the automobile. "Cities need cars like fish need bicycles," he says. Segways, he believes, are ideal for downtown transportation. Unlike cars, they are cheap, clean, efficient, maneuverable. Unlike bicycles, they are designed specifically to be pedestrian friendly. "A bike is too slow and light to mix with trucks in the street but too large and fast to mix with pedestrians on the sidewalk," he argues. "Our machine is compatible with the sidewalk. If a Segway hits you, itis like being hit by another pedestrian."
Ordinary consumers wonit be able to buy Segways for at least a year, a consumer model is expected to go on sale for about $3,000, Heilemann reports. For now, the first customers will be deep-pocketed institutions such as the U.S. Postal Service and General Electric, the National Parks Service and Amazon.comÐ institutions capable of shelling out $8,000 apiece for industrial-strength models.
TIME also takes a hard look at the question of whether this product will really make it in the consumer market. "The consumer market is always harder," Intel chairman Andy Grove, who also rode the Segway, told Heilemann. "But when you think about it, the corporate market is almost unlimited. If the Postal Service and FedEx deploy this for all their carriers, the company will be busy for the next five years just keeping up with that demand."
Filed By Matt Drudge
Reports are moved when circumstances warrant
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