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GM and Segway Partner on Two-Wheel Vehicle

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By David Goguen on April 07, 2009 10:05 AM

Segway Inc. and General Motors Corp. have unveiled a new Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (or "PUMA") program and plans to develop a new two-wheeled (and mostly electric) vehicle being billed as a safer, cleaner alternative to traditional automobiles.

But with groundbreaking vehicle innovation typically comes concerns about safety -- for drivers/riders, pedestrians, and people in other vehicles -- and legal wrangling over restrictions on the new vehicles' use on city streets. 

The PUMA vehicles are two-seaters that utilize similar balancing technology but promise more "car-like traits" than earlier stand-on Segway scooters, according to the Wall Street Journal, including "an enclosed compartment and top speed of 35 miles per hour." (See a photo of the PUMA project prototype, from Reuters.)

Although, as the Los Angeles Times reports, the PUMA project "would include a communications network allowing vehicles to interact with one another to regulate traffic flow and prevent crashes," Segway Inc. is no stranger to legal controversy over its vehicles. 

In 2006, the company recalled 23,500 of its Segway Personal Transporters after receiving reports of the vehicle's unexpectedly appplying "reverse torque" to its wheels, causing a number of riders to fall and become injured (see a CPSC Press Release on the 2006 Segway recall).

A number of municipalities and organizations banned the public use of Segway scooters shortly after the vehicles were introduced in the early 2000s, including the cities of San Francisco (CA) and Key West (FL), and Disney World theme park (MSNBC article: Disney's Segway Ban Rankles Some Visitors).

Stay tuned as the PUMA project takes shape and the launch of the new two-wheeled GM/Segway vehicle gets closer.