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Keep It Simple, Segway -- Don't Team Up With GM

from the 2-wheels-are-better-than-3-or-4 dept

GM and Segway have demonstrated a 2-wheeled vehicle they call PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility). It's basically a bigger Segway that's smaller than a car, but bigger than a scooter because it seats 2 people side-by-side. Having recently visited Saigon (and seen Top Gear's Vietnam Special), I find the technological achievement of the PUMA to be absolutely ridiculous considering the time-tested utility of a 2-wheeled motorcycle (which can easily transport 2 people and zoom through insane traffic at the same time). In fact, the PUMA Project symbolizes many of the failures of the American auto industry. Instead of taking existing technologies and innovating by adapting them to suit practical needs, the PUMA Project simply takes an existing product and makes it bigger, not necessarily better. Okay, obviously, the PUMA Project is just a prototype and not meant for real world usage. But perhaps the time to show off impractical concept vehicles is not during one of the worst global recessions?


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  1.  
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    tim, Apr 7th, 2009 @ 11:13pm

    so...

    what exactly is the point of it?

     

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    mikeho, Apr 7th, 2009 @ 11:47pm

    Re: so...

    Well, it's *supposed* to be a transportation vehicle to get you to public transportation in comfort/style... so if you live a more than a few miles from a train/bus/subway/etc... you might get the PUMA to take you there.

    The PUMA does have some potential to keep rain/snow/etc off of its passengers, but that hardly seems to justify why it needs to self-balance on 2 wheels. But then again, I don't really understand why there aren't Segway-knockoffs that just add a 3rd wheel... (maybe b/c there's no demand for Segways, and so there's even less demand for a Segway-knockoff...)

     

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    Jon, Apr 7th, 2009 @ 11:55pm

    Wrong question...

    The problem with the segway and even more so with this new over-tech'd solution is that they are answers to the wrong questions. The question should be- what do people really need for transportation and what is the simplist solution? Not- how can we shove our technology into the market? This thing will "transform" our cities just as effectivly as the segway. It won't.

    What's wrong with bicycles? Or even electric bicycles? If you have been to Asia recently then you know that electic scooters/bikes are taking over the world. And you can buy one in a supermarket for 100USD.

     

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    Nathan, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 12:22am

    The thing I don't get

    Is that there is absolutely no storage space on the vehicle. I'm not talking about going shopping or anything, but if two people are riding in it, there isn't even room for a backpack or briefcase. As far as commuting goes, massive fail.

     

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    Dan, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 12:32am

    This is about as useful as a motorized toothpick. Not another nickel of bailout money for GM. We are sick of financing their hobbies. Send this toy back to Segway or Mattel where it belongs, in r&d of a VC company.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 1:40am

    The Segway as applied to transportation

    Some people are complaining that the Segway should go back to Mattel, or R&D of a VC Company. What I fear these people fail to see is the whole of Dean Kamen's work, which is trans-generational with efforts including robotics competitions and similar via FIRST. The foundational ability to engage and get the younger generations involved and excited about science, technology and engineering is something that the industry desperately needs. For years, US auto makers have been out-innovated by foreign interests, which may be seen as contributing factor to the weakening US Auto industry. Point is, more innovation needs to occur in the science and technology areas, and PUMA will get people conceptualizing new transportation ideas. Also by forming a partnership with GM it has the ability to tap into GM's global supply chain and partners.

    While some may say that the PUMA has limited utility, understand that it is truly a prototype, and wouldn't go to market as is. It's a concept vehicle showing application of existing technology in a new form. Once you get past that, you'll see it for more than it is.

     

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    Talmyr (profile), Apr 8th, 2009 @ 2:40am

    Not very SMART

    Obviously this is a concept car and as such lacks much of practicality. However, whilst I support the idea of concept vehicles, this one seems to be reinventing the monocycle all over again. Is there any inherent bonus to being only 2-wheeled? If not, once you've added a decent motor and some boot (trunk) space, you have a Smart car, which is very handy round town and already well-used world-wide (Google Streetview, anyone?). Otherwise, as already mentioned - bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles are already extremely popular and effective solutions around the rest of the world.

    Of course, a decent public transport system helps as well...

     

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    Yeebok (profile), Apr 8th, 2009 @ 3:00am

    IT HAS SIX WHEELS FFS.
    I can see that with a quick google search. Why haven't the designers noticed that they have 3x the wheels they claim to have ? Sums up GM nicely

     

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    John Doe, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 3:58am

    Besides a being a marvel of techno wizardry, I don't see how this thing is even valuable as a concept vehicle. I don't believe it would be road legal so it would be useless. Now maybe some retirees in Florida would use it instead of a golf cart to scoot around their neighborhood; but short of that I don't see this thing being practical on any level.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:11am

    Re: Re: so...

    Exactly! What's the point of wasting energy balancing on 2 wheels??

    Take a look at the Piagio (sp?) 3-wheel scooter (2 wheels in the front that lean)
    It's pricey for a scooter, but it nullifiys any issues with balancing on 2 wheels.

    Electric (hybrid) scooters are the way to go.

     

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    Ima Fish, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:13am

    "I find the technological achievement of the PUMA to be absolutely ridiculous considering the time-tested utility of a 2-wheeled motorcycle"

    And of course that is exactly the problem with the Segway, why spend all of that freaking money on a Segway when you could buy a cheap scooter, or even better, a bicycle!

    The Segway is an overpriced solution to a problem no one has.

     

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    Average Guy, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:16am

    I seriously doubt this will go anywhere, market-wise that is... but sometimes you just have to build crap and see if anyone finds it useful. You can imagine stuff, talk about it, explain it to people, even draw it on paper or a computer, but until you make one and let people see it in action or use it, you will never know if its a good idea or not. What if the first guy that took a bicycle and stuck a tiny motor on it had just drawn it and tried to explain it to people... no one would have taken him seriously and the idea would have taken much longer to be 'discovered'.

    Basically, the idea of 'throw it at the wall and see what sticks' is the way we sort out good ideas from lame, expensive, dangerous ideas. You will never come up with a winner 100% of the time, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't at least try.

    I don't like the idea of GM financing this... this is something that should have been built by Kamen and 'offered' to the automakers when he got the bugs worked out. Maybe he was just too burned over the whole segway experience, he felt he needed a larger company to back him?

     

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    Ima Fish, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:18am

    Re: The Segway as applied to transportation

    "the PUMA... is truly a prototype, and wouldn't go to market as is. It's a concept vehicle showing application of existing technology in a new form. Once you get past that, you'll see it for more than it is."

    Oh we see it clearly. We see it as a complete waste of fricken money, resources, and time. You admit it will never go to market, so what's the point? Applying existing technology into a new form is only interesting when the end result serves a purpose. Even you seem to admit that the PUMA serves no real purpose. So why can't you admit the entire exercise was a waste of time, money, and resources?

     

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    Ima Fish, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:20am

    Re: Re: so...

    I thought the exact same thing. There is absolutely no reason, technological or aesthetic for the PUMA to run on only two wheels. It's a pointless exercise. A solution in search of a problem that will never exist.

     

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  15.  
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    DS, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:28am

    Re: The Segway as applied to transportation

    "What I fear these people fail to see is the whole of Dean Kamen's work"

    No, what Dean Kamen and his good buddies need to realize that his $#it stinks just like the rest of us. It was very delusional of him to thing that cities would be designed around Segways and that it would revolutionize personal transportation.

     

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    rwahrens (profile), Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:30am

    not a segway

    I don't see the problem here. If you had seen the short video they showed on the news last night, you'd see their concept of how a small car like this could help transportation.

    First, it'll do what a bike or motorcycle can't. It'll keep the weather off of you. I have a short 1.5 mile commute - and I'll stay away from vehicles that don't keep the wind, snow and rain off of me - I want to get to work dry and warm. Like MANY Americans, I am not a physically fit enough person to drive that bike up the hills many people have to commute over, so a bike is a no go from the start. Second, it takes up less space on the road and is MUCH more maneuverable than a standard car. The video shows short "trains" of these making their way down the road - an indication that they are conceived to be "smart" cars - capable of joining short trains to allow the operator to be merely a rider for much of a commute, which will hugely reduce accidents. A motorbike will never be able to do that.

    Small means cheap. Less energy to move, less to store, smaller batteries. Energy costs less per trip, car is cheaper cause the batteries are smaller, less expensive. Small also means a city can fit more of them to the same amount of parking space - something many inner cities are running out of. More fit onto the same amount of road - another limited commodity!

    The "concept" here is TRANSPORTATION - as in commuter transportation - which is a HUGE market. A huge percentage of Americans that commute within a city do so alone, or with only one other person. A vehicle like this is ideal for such an arrangement with very little addition - perhaps a small trunk for shopping purposes and a few comfort conveniences.

    Reduce the cars Americans drive to work with to something this size - even if only 40% of them do so, and the savings in oil used alone is huge, and the additional savings to cities in increased parking space, more people fit on the roads, cleaner air and so forth are even bigger. Plus, roads would last much longer because these things would weigh MUCH less than standard cars, thus less wear on the roads.

    For my short commute, I'd buy something like this in a heartbeat, if it was weatherproof. I would, of course, keep my bigger vehicle for other purposes, such as shopping for stuff that's too big for the little one, vacations that I can drive on, day trips, etc. But this kind of vehicle could replace 60% of the milage I put on that bigger car every year, making it last longer.

    Another savings!

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:35am

    Who do you think is calling the shots at GM? Team Obama, of course.

    GM's biggest problem isn't that it can't sell vehicles, its that they have been forced to build vehicles in America that no one wants in America.

    As for the Segway, the only way they could succeed is in big cities. The only way to get people to want to use them in big cities is if there were no cars on the road. There is a very good reason that many people don't ride bikes in NYC, and that is you probably wouldn't live very long.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:36am

    Re:

    Says you. Lots of police departments use Segways for patrolling. My city, with only 40,000 people, owns several Segways that are used by traffic police in the downtown and park areas. Much cheaper than those little three-wheeled gas-powered scooter thingies, easier to park, and they can be used on side walks.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:41am

    So, innovate and be criticised on Techdirt...I love it...

    I love it that so many people have responded to this post with all sorts of criticism about how this can't work and there are better solutions and yada yada yada. However, it IS a concept vehicle, and how do we know it is neither practical or desirable? Here a few people have already made the decision for the market place. For a blog that USUALLY emphasizes INNOVATION over INVENTION, it seems like this entire post is critical of someone at least trying to see whether there might be some potential in a new variation on existing technology.

     

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  20.  
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    rwahrens (profile), Apr 8th, 2009 @ 5:48am

    so true

    Perhaps they should take one of their own concepts from another post today - the idea that this is a new recipe, taking many of the same ingredients used in older recipes, adding a few new ones and coming up with a new recipe for an old problem!

    Just because it's a new recipe doesn't automatically make it bad.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 6:01am

    You mean they won't be tearing up the streets to install PUMA lanes this summer? Gee, that's the most practical personal motor vehicle since the BMW Isetta, a 1950s bubble car whose impact absorbing crumple zones were your knees.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Re: so true

    Amen, Brother!

     

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  23.  
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    Griper, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 6:34am

    Re: Re:

    And a cheaper solution would be bicycles. Or better yet, make the cops walk off all the doughnuts.

     

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    Ima Fish, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 6:46am

    Re: Re:

    "Much cheaper than those little three-wheeled gas-powered scooter thingies, easier to park, and they can be used on side walks."

    So, basically your argument is that the Segway is an overpriced solution to shoes or bicycles. Good work there.

     

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  25.  
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    Ima Fish, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 6:50am

    Re: So, innovate and be criticised on Techdirt...I love it...

    "However, it IS a concept vehicle"

    Maybe it's because we want our bailout money used for concept vehicles that are practice and desirable.

    "However, it IS a concept vehicle, and how do we know it is neither practical or desirable?"

    Ummm... by looking at it in action?!

     

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  26.  
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    Ima Fish, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 6:52am

    Re: so true

    Any concept we do does not waste other people's bailout money. If GM was healthy no one would have a problem with this sort of crap. But once GM demanded our money from the government, we have the right to complain about how they're wasting it.

     

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  27.  
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    Matt, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 6:56am

    solution in search of a problem

    This is what this is. It's not a fix to squat. It's an attempt to fix something that doesn't need it. Then again, segways are and were a horrible idea in the first place, so where's the surprise?

    tons of segways have now been used by law enforcement. I mean really, do the fat mall cops need to become fatter by using a segway indoors?

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 8:00am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Let me see...If a traffic officer has a beat that encompasses 20 to 30 miles, you are proposing walking? Let's see, in a typical 8 hour shift that would be somewhere between 2.5 to nearly 4 mph walking, but would actually be much higher than that because of stops to write tickets and address taxpayer concerns. Then you have to address the medical issues of walking 20 to 30 miles per day. I would say that Segways are cheaper solutions than shoes.

    As far as bicycles, yes, a bicycle might well be an alternative, though they are less manueverable than a Segway and more difficult to maneuver through pedestrians, particularly in the environments they are being used. Indeed, Segways have frequently replaced bicycles because of lower injuries, ease of maneuvering in and through crowds, visibility of being on the Segway, ease of getting on and off the Segway as opposed to a bicycle, and probably other reasons. So, no, I think the reasons that Segways replace bicycles seem to be quite logical.

    So, my argument is that Segways are practical replacements for walking and bicycles in some cases. It certainly provides another tool that is extremely useful in some applications.

    Incidentally, I was at the big expo hall in Louisville, Kentucky a few years ago and found Segways being used by expo officials. The Segways reduced walking injuries and were more practical than the electric carts they previously used because they were smaller and more manueverable.

    While you may personally dislike Segways, thousands have been sold to a variety of companies for use in factories, to police departments, to parks departments, and many other places. Mike Masnick would call that innovation because it sells.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 8:03am

    Re: Re: So, innovate and be criticised on Techdirt...I love it...

    I am guessing that the concept vehicle was in work well before the bailout money. It does take time to do these things. So you are criticizing something that happened before the bailout because of the bailout. Seems fishy to me.

    I am sorry, but I am unable to tell that something is neither practical or desirable by looking at it, even in action. I thought the same thing about the Volkswagen Beetle and the Toyota Prius, and you know what they did.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    Re: Re: so true

    Except, the vehicle had to be in work well before the bailout money arrived. You are complaining about expenditures that happened before the public became involved.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 8:07am

    Re: solution in search of a problem

    Your post makes no sense. First you say they are a horrible idea, but you offer no factual support for that statement. Then you turn around and talk about how "tons of segways" [sic] have now been used. Is that not the definition of innovation, bringing something to market that sells? I thought the point was to BE innovative, not criticize innovation.

     

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    NPGMBR, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 8:11am

    Typical Response from a Techdirt Blogger

    No, you don't see the merits of this vehicle because you demonstrate quite clearly that you don't care of GM. However, Segway (in my opinion) is one of the most innovative companies on this rock. I'm sure they see applications for this vehicle that you can't possibly think-up.

    I'm guessing a good place where these vehicles would be practical is in cities. Placed in rental fleets like Zipcar that rent vehicles to consumers by the hour. These things would be even more practical in D.C. than Civics, Minis and Corollas.

     

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    rwahrens (profile), Apr 8th, 2009 @ 8:18am

    Re: solution in search of a problem

    So why do you seem to think that our transportation system has no problems and needs no solutions?

    Millions of Americans drive individually owned cars that are designed to hold from 4 to 6 people - and drive them ALONE - in commutes that could easily be accomplished using a small electric vehicle just big enough for them and perhaps one other person, wasting who knows how much oil/gas that we now have to buy from people that hate us and all we stand for!

    Our cities are stuffed full to the brim with those gas guzzling, pollution-spewing, space hogging monsters, and you seem to think that a small electric smart car wouldn't solve at least SOME of those problems? Our roads are choked by too damn many of those same cars driven by idiots that keep banging them into each other and you think that a small smart car that could take the driving job and do it better and use less road would be a waste of money?

    I want to smoke some of what you are, life would be so much simpler!

     

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  34.  
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    mikeho, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 8:56am

    to those who think PUMA is innovation from GM...

    I think Segway is a brilliant and innovative company. But in this case, just making a larger version of their product is not innovation for them. And if you think this is innovative for GM... then basically GM's innovation is to go outside of its own R&D division(s) and get an outside company to build a modified version of an existing product. hmmm.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 9:31am

    The concept needs to keep concepting

    There are two main problems I can see with this idea.

    First, it looks like a toy my Jeep spit up. I wouldn't trust driving down any street in Pittsburgh in one of these.

    Second, while inside the city it may be 25MPH or less, take one roll outside downtown and it's 35-45 (not including parkways, beltways, or strips that this is obviously not designed for), and how many people drive the speed limit. So driving down the road, you have a line of cars behind you that can run you over like a speed bump. Just imagine driving down the road with someone not only 2 feet from your bumper but also 2 feet from your ass.

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 9:50am

    GM PUMA

    Well put, Michael!

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 9:55am

    Re: The Segway as applied to transportation

    So GM stops development of this, blaming the economy, then goes and screws around with a silly Segway on steroids instead? Way to show Washington you're using the bailout money responsibly, GM.

    If GM's seriously considering commuter vehicles again, their Lean Machine from the early 80s is a far better idea. 200mpg from 1983 technology? Sounds good to me. And 26 years of powertrain improvements should make that competitive with whatever the mpg-equivalent of this overgrown Segway is. Or, you know, GM could do what they did last time, and bring back the Pontiac Fiero.

     

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  38.  
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    Derek Kerton, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re: The Segway as applied to transportation

    Nah, what he's saying is that in a commercial version, there will be space for backpacks or groceries. Prototypes for proof of concept, like this, shouldn't be written off because they're not fully "market ready".

    On the other hand, it should be written off for other reasons.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Re: so true

    Except you have to consider that this expenditure, and others like it, are part of the problem that got GM into the mess it is. GM wasn't building the right kind of vehicles for the world it found itself in. So how does this vehicle fit in any better?

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

    I know I do not know, but then again, I am not in the car industry.

    Here is an example:

    Is Toyota building cars that are "obviously" the right kind of vehicle?

    One viewpoint says yes because they have risen to the #1 spot in the car industry. However, they do not have the #1 selling vehicle, which is a Ford product, and their products do not lead most quality classes. Their car designs have been called boring. From an objective viewpoint, Toyota is not producing products that anyone wants, and yet, they are selling cars.

    Indeed, I have owned two Toyota's in the past, when their designs were better and they built cars that led their class in quality, but their designs are boring and their cars (except for the Lexus, which is in a class all by itself) are often outclassed or matched by more interesting vehicles.

    I do not think Toyota is building the right kind of vehicle. Just goes to show you how valuable opinions are.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Re: The Segway as applied to transportation

    And those reasons are...?

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: The Segway as applied to transportation

    The Segway concept was nearly complete at the time the bailout was even considered. I suspect that unless Segway plans on pursuing it further that it too will be put on a far back burner.

    The Pontiac Fiero was a piece of crap.

     

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  43.  
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    Derek Kerton, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:32am

    Re:

    "GM's biggest problem isn't that it can't sell vehicles, its that they have been forced to build vehicles in America that no one wants in America."

    You mean like the way they were forced to kill the EV-1, and were forced to buy hummer? Or the way they were forced to have lower quality than the Japanese?
    Or the way the UAW extracted wages and benefits that were out-of-sync with the profitability of the company? Or the way management missed most every big trend in auto design? Or the way the US automakers grew overly dependent on huge SUVs during the economic boom, and were un-prepared for an oil shortage or a recession? Or the way GM was forced to maintain a network of 7500 dealers when Toyota seems able to serve the nation with 3000?

    Yep, you nailed it. That's Obama's fault, not GM's.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:33am

    Re: The concept needs to keep concepting

    Yeah, I get that right now, but few people want to challenge my F-150.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:35am

    Re: Typical Response from a Techdirt Blogger

    Way to go NPGMBR! Point out attempts at innovation to people who should recognize it when they see it. Sad responses from Techdirt bloggers who should be encouraging experimentation instead of discouraging it.

     

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  46.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The Segway as applied to transportation

    ...discussed at length by other people in these comments.

    Start with a violation of "Keep it simple stupid." Segway's are small, thus a two-wheel configuration offers improved balance for a wheeled vehicle with a small footprint. Cars, even this one, are larger, and can benefit from four wheels for balance. This is a technology in search of a market, not a market in search of the Segway technology.

     

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    mikeho, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Typical Response from a Techdirt Blogger

    I am ALL FOR innovation. But I see none in the PUMA. Innovation solves a problem or creates a market for an unmet need... how does the PUMA qualify as innovation again? If the PUMA inspires GM to create smaller more efficient cars, then great -- but I don't see how the PUMA isn't just an impractical but fancy golf cart....

     

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  48.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Apr 8th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

    Wrong.

    "From an objective viewpoint, Toyota is not producing products that anyone wants, and yet, they are selling cars."

    Ask people what cars they "dream of owning", and they'll tell you Ferrari, Lamborghini, Dodge Viper, etc. Ask people what cars they buy, and the answers are more practical.

    Just because the authors at Car & Driver, Motor Trend and other flashy car magazines don't feature the Corolla on the cover doesn't mean the market doesn't have huge demand for those "boring" cars. Obviously, since they sell well. There is a difference between "flashy" and "practical, good compromise, and good value". Toyota does well in the latter group. People will TELL you they want one thing, but it is how they vote with their wallet that reveals their true preference.

    BTW, your observation that Toyota no longer leads in quality is true...just barely true. In Consumer Reports' spring auto issue, they rated carmakers. Honda scored a 78, Subaru 75, and Toyota a 74. GM tallied a 57. The opening paragraph of the CR article, "Who Makes The Best Cars" says, "The best vehicles are built by Honda, Subaru, and Toyota. They make well-rounded cars that excel across the board, getting very good scores in our road tests and high marks in reliability from subscribers in our Annual Auto Survey." (i.e. The opposite of what you said.)

    Given the evidence, it's pretty hard to indict Toyota on quality, isn't it?

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    Re: to those who think PUMA is innovation from GM...

    I think Segway is a brilliant and innovative company. But in this case, just making a larger version of their product is not innovation for them. And if you think this is innovative for GM... then basically GM's innovation is to go outside of its own R&D division(s) and get an outside company to build a modified version of an existing product. hmmm.

    I think you got something there, Michael.

    I see it as a bandaid on a much larger problem of corporate-led innovation. R&D was often seen as an expense to the business, and often creative ways to reduce such expenses were implemented. Unfortunately, many companies continue to subscribe to this ideology. The idea that outsourced R&D is somehow good and increases brand and product value, will eventually catch up, like what we're seeing with GM today.

    But it just makes you realize what dire straits GM is in.

     

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  50.  
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    Derek Kerton, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    Re: Typical Response from a Techdirt Blogger

    Not every new idea is great.

    Not every new idea that reduces fuel consumption is great.

    Should Techdirt applaud every idea just because it's new, or should Techdirt try to separate the winners from the losers? TD would be a bunch of clapping monkeys if they just lauded every new product.

    And check the written record after 10 years of Techdirt. How many times have the writers here been right, and how many times wrong? You're betting long odds if you bet against this blog.

    Further...what the heck is new about taking the Segway, and making it bigger? That's been GM's bread and butter trick throught the whole economic boom. Take engines, make bigger. Take trucks, make bigger. Kill EV-1, buy Hummer. What's new about 'take Segway, make bigger'?

    But the Segway's unique balancing act is an apt fit for a very small footprint vehicle. The Segway offers a person motorized transit without significantly increasing their needed "personal space". Thus it can be used on sidewalks, at busy trade centers, etc. You CAN'T do that with a four wheel vehicle. You need the balancing act to keep it small. So Segway's were a good invention for this purpose.

    But Kamen was off his rocker to think that cities would change to accomodate his invention. So Segways are useful in a variety of niche applications, but are not the world-changer that Kamen envisioned.

    Meanwhile, if you are going to offer a small car, you no longer need to balance it on two wheels. The act of doing so shows hubris of the inventors, in that they think their technology applies in places it doesn't (just as they were over-optimistic about changing the world.) A small car does just fine with four wheels, and OK with three. This proposed vehicle violates the K.I.S.S principle. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

    Lastly, people in the comments talk about keeping dry as a reason scooters and bicicles don't take over. But BMW made the C1 scooter with a roof for years (http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/1437020892066933171rWjbuo) Or look at this model from Peugeot: http://www.gizmag.com/peugeot-hymotion3-three-wheel-concept/10195/. Problem solved. Of course, this scooter innovation took place in the EU while our automakers focused on the Hummer and the Excursion.

    Seriously. If GM wants a good idea, here are two: bring back the EV-1, and hurry up with the Volt.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    PUMA sooooo reminds me of this cartoon...

    http://cagle.com/news/GingertheScooter/Gingergifs/heller.jpg

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

    I merely wanted to point out that Toyota, which DOMINATED the quality classes they were in, no longer did. Furthermore, there are many American cars, particularly from Ford, that are class leaders. One of the things I find interesting is that high quality, good design and competitive price take time to yield changes (but that is changing for Ford and Toyota in particular).

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

    Your statements regarding quality depend on who you ask. I saw an article a few years back regarding Consumer Reports' readers, and one thing that stood out in my mind is that at that time was that more than half of all Consumer Reports' readers owned Toyotas.

    On the other hand, J.D. Powers and Associates attempts to gather a cross-section of the population for their surveys, and they show Ford and Hyundai in the same league as Toyota.

    There is always bias in surveys, but I think Consumer Reports is more biased than many surveys because of the nature of their readers.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

    lol...Watched any Toyota commercials lately? They once touted their #1 spot in the J.D. Powers surveys, and now that they have fallen to three, four or five (I forget how far they have fallen), they now state their "legendary quality" in commercials instead of what they once did when they bragged about being the best in the J.D. Powers and Associates surveys.

    Seems to me that not only is the indictment accurate, even Toyota recognizes their ranking in the quality standards is lower than it has been.

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: Typical Response from a Techdirt Blogger

    When you talk about "new," you are talking about invention. Techdirt seems to be about innovation, not invention. Packaging something in a way that people find value in it is innovative. In spite of the many comments, Segways sell well in certain markets. Though the vehicle Mike talks about is a concept, how do we know what the reaction of the market to a production vehicle would be? The waiting list for the Volt is quite long. I suspect the upgraded Segway would be cheaper (maybe), and might well work for some people in some communities, or maybe on golf courses. I think we should let the market decide whether it wants this device, not a bunch of geek bloggers on an obscure blog.

     

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  56.  
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    Dan, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 2:07am

    Re: The Segway as applied to transportation

    Exactly what is innovative about the PUMA? It is a Segway with two seats and a minimal roof. This just a dog & pony show. What happens if you loose electrical power? Does it fall over, retain directional control, braking? Every unicyclist knows they cannot remain vertical without motion, forward or backward. Then there is the issue of accidents. One of these things loosing power at 35MPH would look like an episode of Jackass. Nobody seems to mention cost, $6,000 could buy a pretty nice golf cart with room for 2-4 people or parcels, I would rather buy 3 TATA's for $6,000, at least it would keep me dry in the rain. This is nothing more then "pimp my Segway". If this is GM's future then Chysler is home free. This is an April fools joke that couldn't meet the release date.

     

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  57.  
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    rwahrens (profile), Apr 9th, 2009 @ 7:03am

    Re: Re: The Segway as applied to transportation

    Perhaps you should LOOK at the vehicle. It has four wheels, two front, two back, that will catch the thing and keep it from tilting too far when it is switched off. What, you think the designers didn't think about that?

    This is a fsking CONCEPT car, it is meant to show off the tech, and show what it could be used for.

    And yes, this IS innovation - as opposed to the original Segway, you sit in it, you have two seats instead of one, and it is meant for a commute, NOT patrolling malls. In addition, the video they showed demonstrates it as being used as a SMART car, attached to a computer system that can meld the car into a transportation system where trains of these things go to common destinations. Motorbikes can't be used that way, nor can bicycles. This one keeps its own balance, and I don't have to stick my foot out into the weather to balance it at a stop light!

    Dry in the rain? What makes you think this couldn't be fitted with a weatherproof exterior? Looks simple to me. Remember CONCEPT CAR!! Those are NEVER built in their final form, they are only meant to demonstrate the tech's feasibility in operation. They are NOT market test cars.

    If I wanted a stupid golf cart, I'd buy one, but they are NOT designed for commuting, they are designed for riding around on golf courses.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

     

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  59.  
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    Derek Kerton, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

    Well, the good news is that this was caused by other manufacturers improving the quality of their product, as opposed to Toyota dropping.

    But, yeah, Honda moved past them and others have gotten better. Still great quality.

     

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  60.  
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    Derek Kerton, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

    I dunno. What they do is ask readers if they have had problems with their cars, and if so, what kinds of problems. They then calculate the likelihood of having problems for each car type.

    Assuming you are correct, and that their readership skews to owning Toyotas (not entirely surprising since it is #1 world carmaker):: I'm not sure how having more Toyotas in the survey makes the results supsect. They have thousands of returned surveys on dozens of car models. Having more data on Toyota models would not bias the results. It *might* make the results less robust for cars for which they have few responses, but they don't present results for these car models.

    It's not like the survey asks "What kind of car do you own?" and then says that's the best car!

     

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  61.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 9:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

    If you have a population that primarily buys a certain product, but very little of a competing product, and ask them about the certain product, in generaly you will have bias toward the certain product and away from the competing product. There have been several articles written about the inherent bias of Consumer Reports, which even admits itself that it has bias because the surveys are sent to its readership. Their surveys have some value, but they frequently do not agree with surveys from sources that randomly choose larger audiences using statistical techniques.

     

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  62.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 3:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: so true

    "If you have a population...in generaly you will have bias toward the certain product and away from the competing product." That's just not universally true at all. Each person is not being asked how they feel about Toyotas, they are being asked about their experience with the car they bought. Toyota owners asked about their Toyota, and Buick owners about their Buick.

    The question asked is "have you had problems with this car?" And then breaks it down into categories such as electrical, chassis, engine, etc. This does not bias the results towards the mode.

    With a lower number of responses for Buick, what you have is a larger confidence interval on your Buick results than on your Toyota results...but you don't have bias.

    Sure, the CR research may have some other form bias, as almost any research does. But you'd need to be an actuary or a statistician to whittle throught the intricacies of how they could improve their statistical model. Basically, for the layman, it can be considered quite sound.

     

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