Having conquered the world of passenger vehicles, General Motors Corp. showed off its vision of future transportation today that’s either exciting or frightening, depending on whether one cares about driving.
GM and Segway unveiled the Project PUMA, a two-seat rickshaw minus a rick that uses the Segway’s electric systems to glide around on two wheels. Capable of carrying 700 pounds in a frame about half the size of a Smart car, the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) can spin on a pin and “bows” to let passengers in and out.
I think this clears up any doubts over whether firing Wagoner was a good idea. At any rate, due to the tragic name, this photoshopping was just inevitable (the third picture killed me).
Submit to me your own photoshop entrants via email or in the comments.
Is this a concept car or what? It can’t possibly be street legal, right?
Two wheels down.
It looks a lot less stable and less practical than a scooter.
In one sense, it’s not a bad idea: develop a single-person commuter vehicle that is fuel efficient. Given the way people drive, it could save lots of oil.
But really, what you’d want there is a safer version of a motorcycle, not a sillier version of a unicycle.
Everything about this is Fail.
Was Wagoner consulting his idiot half-brother Homer?
America: Because walking is for Eurofags and Chi-coms.
In a case like this, what is the point of just 2 wheels? Is there a lower power requirement that offsets the energy required to maintain the gyroscope and adjusters?
The Segway Centaur was way cooler:
I never really understood the Segway itself. Other than the fact it can turn in a small area. This makes absolutely no sense to me at all.
Dumbest thing ever.
This is exactly what GM wants you to think about energy efficiency. Underpowered little unsafe boxes.
There are plenty of ways to make cars far more energy efficient but American car makers just want to mock the idea.
Oddly enough, I’ve been looking for exactly something like this. We live in the burbs and I frequently have to do errands where it’s a little too far to walk, and too hilly for a bike. My neighbor got a motorized scooter, but the weather made it uncomfortable to use except when it’s sunny. An enclosed scooter that can get up to suburban speeds while saving gas would be great.
This should be grounds to fine him for deliberate gross incompetence.
Or industrial sabotage.
Minion mind control method detected.
John H. Farr
Now see, if svensker is serious, then there must be people who would really want one of these things. But after GM sells all five of those, they’ll never recoup their investment costs.
The shame of it is, something sensible and elegant could be a hit. Meanwhile, the Chinese are gearing up to be the world’s biggest and best builders of electric cars. I guess we’ll just have to wait and buy the real thing.
so they finally produce an energy efficient way to transport people for quick and efficient within-city travel – god send? No, mocked to oblivion.
I think the problem here is cultural blindness. It reminds people too much of a golf cart, and we couldn’t possibly ride around in those, because only pretentious gits ride in golf carts.
From an engineering point of view this thing seems great. The fail is all on the marketing side. Why are we humans so flaky?
Considering how often I see people driving wheelchairs and mobility scooters in traffic here in Cambridge, I have to believe there’s a market for a vehicle that offers more shelter and protection than those.
Also? It’s Professor X’s wheelchair.
This is going to give sidewalk fruit vendors in Ft. Lauderdale nightmares just thinking about it.
Put an orange flag on it and it would look just like my little boy’s Burley.
Aesthetically, it is fail. Would I use it? Of course.
The name is tragic.
I’m curious how this thing compares to an electric golf cart (in terms of speed, horsepower, cost, energy usage).
@Ecks: Thank you. This. Like everything else, people love having these hysterical initial reactions to these things, but really. Back yourself up from the look of it. If you could offer me something like that for lets say, 6 grand, I’d be on it in a heartbeat. Granted, there are probably some security concerns both for the riders, and leaving it parked (I feel like two men could lift it and run off with it), I think its an excellent step in the right direction. I’m surprised more people aren’t giving it a serious look.
You just know people are going to ride those things either on the sidewalk or in the bike lanes.
Christ, this is the most depressing thing I’ve seen come out of Detroit for years.
Paul Blart, P.U.M.A. Cop.
I don’t know what’s going through car makers minds, but they’re churning out some of the ugliest crap since the invention of the combustion engine.
I’ve seen little toy cars tooling around my neighborhood that look like stuff out of the cartoon cityscape from Roger Rabbit. Shapes like cheese wedges on wheels that are barely larger than the driver. Little oval football shapes. Things that look like a sack of wet sand was dropped off a roof. Fugleeee! Bring back something akin to the ’65 Mustang and or the original TBird – or just give it up.
I actually looked into buying a segway, but could not justify paying the same amount I would for a used car.
I have this urge to try to mount a large laser cannon on top of the thing and attempt to drive up walls with it.
Damn Nintendo flashbacks.
These types of transporters are not designed to replace
the automobile. They are designed to replace the second,
third,or fourth car. People that are unable to ride a scooter or bicycle could use this type of transpotation.
gbear, look closer. There are tiny training wheels on both front and back.
They re-packaged that cool thing that whatshisname invented to make self balancing scooters into another failmobile.
If I were Richy Rich I’d buy a dozen and build a race course for them.
But when looking for "an energy efficient way to transport people for quick and efficient within-city travel," "being able to balance on two wheels" isn’t on the top of the list. It doesn’t even make the list.
The segway has been a solution looking for a problem since the day it was invented. This is just more of the same.
It wouldn’t surprise me if parents who live in gated communities purchased the PUMA for their children. That way they wouldn’t have to drive their children to their tennis lesson.
It’s good to see that GM is using taxpayer money on wise investments for smartly designed future products that people will actually buy.
Might as well of taken that project’s budget and set on fire while the engineers danced naked around it. Yay for American ingenuity!
Yeah, what he says. As for me, when I see the picture of the two guys in the motorized rickshaw, I think of this:
I was judging by the ‘inadequate black car!’ photo in the link. It looks like when you’re up to speed, you’re not using the training wheels. Is the thing gyroscopically balanced?
A real godsend would be a well-funded bus and subway system.
The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
If you’re going to have something that’s this much longer than a Segway, I don’t see the advantage to only having two wheels–especially side-by-side wheels. The Segway serves a niche market, no doubt about it, but that market exists. Out on the real road however, what they need to come out with is an electric bicycle with about 100-mile range. That would be easily doable with today’s batteries, and if EEStor* pans out, it wouldn’t even weigh much more than a regular bike.
What would be really great is a small actuator constantly adjusting the front fork so that the bike doesn’t fall over, even when stopped. This would be completely trivial compared to what the Segway’s onboard computer has to do.
*For the latest belief and skepticism on EEStor, go to The EEStory.
It looks like it would make for a pretty good ride at Disneyland.
The two wheels allow it to have a turning radius of zero. This is awful handy.
And yes it looks lame, but christ, it’s not the final model. I suspect the main issue with these things is that they’ll cost about as much as a car.
RISE HILLARY RISE!
zomg! r2 has gone over to the dark side!
I still hold a grudge against Segway. When they first launched, I thought personal transport meant teleportation pods like out of the Fly remake (minus the flesh eating acid vomit, peeling skin and loss of fingernails of course), and instead they ended up unveiling a damn scooter.
Evolved Deep Southerner
@John Cole: What the hell for, John?
I was starting to wonder if I was the only one who would ride one of themse, until I came down to your comment. Thank you. :)
The GM PUMA — The car for a man who is alone against the elements. The awesome power of nature distilled into one vehicle. Because on the toll road of life you have to pay to prove you can.
where are you going to drive these things? Not on the street. Looks too big for many sidewalks.
I heard a GM person quoted somewhere today saying that they were thinking state legislatures and cities could be convinced to create special lanes for the vehicle.
Yeah, that’s gonna happen.
If it hovered about 20 feet off the ground, it’d be pretty cool.
Don’t call it sweetie.
Classic tone deaf Detroit. A vapor product press release. "That’ll shut up those dirty green hippies!" They’re used to operating in an echo chamber with a compliant industry press that’s a bunch of hot rod fan boyz.
Those inside the domestic automotive industry can regurgitate the problems ad nauseam; bad management, bad designs, bad product mix and lousy quality. The health and pension mess and the hopelessly bloated dealer system.
But deep down they don’t believe it. When the rubber hits the road they start squealing about the dirty hippies in California and the dark implications of government takeovers and OMG! Hair on fire! Hair on fire! We need to get ahead of the news cycle! What do we have? Well… not the Volt. But we have a two seat Segway with a GM logo. Great! Run with it!
I think it’s adorable, and the silliness just enhances the adorable. It reminds me of the passenger cars on a Tilt-A-Whirl, only *smaller.*
However, I don’t see any cargo space. Hell, if you have a passenger I’m not sure there’s even room for a purse or a bagged lunch. I think that cuts down dramatically on the cutie’s usefulness.
I read the New York Times blog post about 12 hours ago, there was one very funny bit: some GM guy was explaining that he knew it’d work in a hypermodern society because it was like an updated rickshaw and they’re really popular in Singapore – and then (FWIW) some commentator chimes in, says No Rickshaws In Singapore. If the commentator’s right, massive Fail.
I actually know this…
The Segway was intended to extend the range a person would be willing to roam without getting in a car.
In a big city there’s some time associated with getting your car; you have to walk to the garage and get the car from them. After you drive to your destination you have to circle around looking for parking. If you walk you can get quite a distance in what is simply the overhead time of dealing with a car. It’s faster to walk if your destination is just a mile away.
Outside of the city, parking is generally easier so there is less overhead time associated with driving. Even so you may want to walk to a destination but how long are you willing to walk even on a nice day? 20 minutes maybe?
The 2 wheel side by side footprint is important. Scooters, bicycles, and mobility chairs, all take up more space than a normal pedestrian. The segway basically doesn’t take additional space.
It’s maneuverable, you can turn as sharp as you can walking. It’s fast to accelerate and brake; you can be behind someone walking and stop if they bend down to pick up a penny. It’s quiet.
Put that all together and you get a device that helps you be a faster pedestrian. The Segway is 3 times faster than walking, so you can get 3 times farther in the time you’re willing to put into it. It’s small enough to stay in your apartment so there’s no fetch time. It’s enough pedestrian like that you can stay on the sidewalks with the other pedestrians.
The whole goal was to triple the distance which it’s worth "walking" to without otherwise changing the layout of cities. Instead of having convenient access to everything in a 1 mile radius from home, now everything in a 3 mile radius is equally convenient.
The final goal was very DFH, instead of guilting people into using their car less you give them a better option than using the car. All in all less pollution, less congestion, less noise. Dean Kamen talks about this in one of his TED talks.
To me the P.U.M.A looks like a high-tech NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, think golf cart). There’s very little reason to use this over a car. You still have to park it at both ends of the trip and you can’t ride it on sidewalks,
This is just a NEV in a different form factor with some Gee Whiz tech in it. Buy an existing NEV or even a Pathway NEV from GM, or just buy a traditional 2 wheel scooter.
I don’t understand why this has been getting the bashing it has all day. It’s a proof of concept / prototype, so it’s not even up to "concept car" yet.
The people over on treehugger.com piled on even though this should be right up their alley. They complained that people should just get an electric bicycle for $4000 instead. In an other thread, they were clamoring for Th!nk to bring the $17,000 electric City car over.
But the Segway/GM podcar? OMG, it’s ugly, unsafe, doesn’t have doors, too expensive, looks stupid, can’t charge it anywhere… no wonder GM is going under!
I have two words for all you stuck-on-shiny haterz: AGING BOOMERS. Yes, I’m at the back end of that much-abused cohort. I’ve got a bad back and creaky joints, so there are limits to how far I can walk. My sense of balance has never been good, and it’s only getting worse, so motorcycles or electric scooters aren’t a good idea. (Aligning the two wheels parallel to my personal wide load and adding a gyroscope? I like!) And given my aging eyes and decreasing reaction times, being "restricted" to a mere 35 MPH sounds more like a blessing than a curse — not just for me, but for every pedestrian or fellow motorist in my immediate vicinity!
I don’t need a vehicular penis extender. I don’t want to use this to commute on the freeway, much less cross-country. I just covet a vehicle like this that will take me to the commuter rail station two mostly-no-sidewalks miles away, or to the local grocery/drugstore/hardware strip mall and back, or even to the medical center that’s 5 miles on the highway or 6 miles on surface streets. Right now I’ve got the "luxury" of taking a cab for short trips like this when my husband’s using the family car for commuting, but there are MANY MANY THOUSANDS of people like me in semi-urban or suburban areas who would happily pony up for a vehicle that will let them stay "independent" without risking their lives & other peoples’. If you don’t believe me, try a google search on ‘elderly drivers & accidents’… these small tragedies are second only to those involving teenagers on the local tv news. Stuff like a cancer patient crashing into her doctor’s strip-mall office, killing the receptionist and two other patients, or an old guy running over a small child in the parking lot at the school where he went to vote. Sure, in a perfect world, there’d be reliable, easily-accessible public transit options 24/7 in every neighborhood, or access to all life’s needs & little luxuries within easy walking distance, but while we’re wishing for the impossible, why not just imagine a world where nobody’s old or lame or lazy, too?
The PUMA that ends up at a local dealership will certainly be more sales-friendly than the model in the picture. The clip on the news channel said GM’s looking at a price point of around $6,000, which is less than an equivalent golf cart around here, and only about 50% more than the three-wheeled "Phoenix Mobility Extender" I’d have to special-order from a bike dealer in another state. I, for one, am hoping for the projected 2012 delivery date!
Terry, the launch of the concept (and you are of course correct that it’s just a concept) has been just monumentally inept.
The problem with comparing it to a bicycle, even an expensive electric one, is that this is just so much larger than a bicycle: it’s an enclosed vehicle for two men abreast that will take a full lane, cannot leave the roads, and requires parking spaces, or at least parts of them. Its competition is closer to the Smart Car than it is to anything I’ve seen with two wheels, even the Segway from which it descends.
By contrast, my bicycle can when necessary go past cars in many traffic lanes or can use a dedicated lane much narrower than a traffic lane, I can walk or ride it on sidewalks and crosswalks (which I do respectfully of pedestrians, because I try not to be an asshole), and because it weighs thirty pounds I can easily lift it and take it with me into the entry hall of my house or into my workplace. A scooter or a bike with a lead-acid battery and an electric motor would be less portable, but could still be left "parked" on the sidewalk, cabled to a utility pole; GM’s "PUMA" cannot.
But all that’s about the practical questions; the marketing is also absurd. As a sci-fi concept this thing looks more like the jokes you see in parodies than anything aspirational. If you want to see a very similar concept more cleverly addressed (including more thought about the practicalities of parking it, and less of an attachment to the idea of marketing the car for sale to the individual owner), take a look at MIT’s Stackable Car Project.
Curiously, MIT’s concept, which seems so much more attractive, is a partnership with GM. So GM is already involved with a project aimed at just this sort of market, but decided to promote its own internal Fail Sandwich instead.
Weren’t these in the Woody Allen film Sleeper?
These will fly out of showrooms once suitably equipped for the American market: 8 cupholders, 6-disc CD player w/ sub-woofer, heated seats, rear view camera, 3 power outlets, and GM/Sea-Doo tow package (optional).
The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge, Terry,
They have kits to convert bikes into ebikes that run around a grand.
I live in a somewhat hilly, sparsely packed, small city, so I did something fun last fall: bought a bike, and slapped a mail-ordered chinese-made hub motor to the front fork.
I Pee Wee Hermaned the hell out of that thang.
48 volts times 25 amps, the thing can haul (about 25 mph on the flats, ~ 20 mph up a decent hill. Throw in some pedaling and/or a downhill and it tears. It is fun to blast past the spandex set while wearing jeans without breaking a sweat. Its not so fun having the inevitable redneck in a Chevy Avalanch try to push you off the road- and that’s when you’re going over the speed limit. Something about their simian brain sees a bike and thinks: this guy is going slow so I must pass him whilest being a complete a$$hole.
I remembered taking a Segway tour out west on vacation and the reactions we got are similar to the reactions I get on my ebike, which are mimicked here on this thread:
Damn that’s gay, but it looks like fun, and I want one.
GM does deserve some scorn for this type of half-hearted launch though. Didn’t they promise us the Volt in ’10? Don’t ’10 models come to showrooms in a couple months?
This P.U.M.A thing is more fail than it’ll be worth.
Somebody just needs to further refine this concept.
Once gas prices creep back above $4, the market for this kind of safer, super-scooter will become more and more viable.
I have run into a segway in the wild exactly once. I was downtown Auckland and some politician had a couple of them tooling around with posters on the front.
The drivers were going slow and being careful. They were watching the folks that they were passing. They weren’t in a rush to get anywhere.
And pedestrians were stepping into the street to get out of the way of those damn things.
They are bigger than a pedestrian. Wider. Taller. Heavier.
The "zero turning radius" thing is wildly overrated. Yeah, you can find a situation where it is handy, but this doesn’t address the fact that they don’t fit in the street and they don’t fit on the sidewalk.
The segway has found a couple of niches. Rich man’s toy for tooling around the estate. (But you need to remember to turn it on George) Vertical wheel char for folks who can stand and walk a bit but can’t do distance. (and like standard wheel chairs, they require accommodation from the rest of us) But as a general transportation device they have proven to be an utter failure. Not because folks sneered, but because they have REAL drawbacks that outweigh their real advantages.
But what the hell. Lets ignore this lesson and build more vehicles on this platform.
Wow, what a bunch of unimaginative commenters. This product makes a lot of sense for people who live a mile or more from a public transit option and therefore would like to ride rather than walk through their neighborhoods to the station. People like me! Perhaps not a huge market yet, but …
I would say exactly what AnneLaurie said, with one small but crucial change: it’s not just aging Boomers anymore. It’s aging X-ers, now, as well. The oldest of us are well up into our forties at this point. I live in NYC, where we actually have a great public transit system. I have a bike which I ride mostly for recreation (I’d use it more for pure transport if there were safer bike lanes — since I’m no longer a kid, frankly the idea of cycling in automobile traffic scares the crap out of me). And frankly, I’ll walk anywhere if it’s within 5-7 miles of my home, let alone a mile. But that’s now. That number is diminishing, and will continue to diminish, as I age and grow not just less agile, but more fearful. Oh, and? I don’t drive. Never learned how.
So, yeah. It’s funny-looking, and will probably be way too expensive at first, but a second or third generation of this thing? By the time it’s available and affordable? Will probably start to look increasingly attractive to me, and probably to a lot of other people like me. It’s just a matter of being patient and letting yourself catch up with yourself a little.
Heh. Having spent most of my life as an unusually fit and active — but far from slender — woman, I can tell you that this happens with pedestrians too. I suspect I’ve injured more than a couple of people in my time this way.
they gave a prototype to W; he crashed it.
Mo's Bike Shop
This is pretty funny as an example of "If Detroit invented the bicycle."
I’m sure this will appeal to those who view productive exercise as declasse, but if they help create a constituency for low-speed corridors for alternative transport I promise not to laugh too hard.
@Warren Terra: Not everyone can ride a bicycle as well as you can. Further, some may need to travel further than would prove convenient on a bike. The point is, the bike is not the end-all, be-all of transportation — they aren’t enclosed, don’t take passengers, and make it very difficult to get to work without being sweaty.
As for the Smart car (similar to the Th!nk City I mentioned), it is larger than the PUMA, not electric, and probably more expensive (Smart: $13-18k). These would work very well as runabouts to be used in tandem with mass transit.
As for parking, sure they don’t stack like shopping carts, but if you were operating a rental service where it wouldn’t matter which pod someone took, you could pack them just as tightly as those MIT concepts. Besides, the MIT City car stacked for the purpose of reducing the space taken by a rear pair of wheels. Further, they still haven’t come out with a prototype; it’s still a CG concept.
Municipalities are part of the problem in terms of parking. In Los Angeles, even though you could probably fit a couple Smarts in a single parking space, you would get ticketed for doing so. LA doesn’t want to lose out on meter revenue, so they force even tiny cars to take up a full space.
@Cackalacka: I’m aware of electric conversion kits for bikes, but for a complete retail version, pedal-assist bikes still run between $2-4k. To some, converting a cheapo bike to run on electric might be fine, but there’s tradeoffs.
As for the Volt, they’re on schedule for mating the powertrain to the final bodywork this summer. I think they’re expecting to launch in 2010, not for the 2010 "model year".
Ahh, thanks for the clarification, Terry. My Accord is cresting 200k in a couple days, and I’m trying to hold out for the modified Insight, but would like a home-grown option, even if it something to laugh at.
I was going to get a Fit, but then I heard they handled like rocks, and get about 1-2 mpg more than my 14 year old Accord. Ahh progress. Where’s my damn jet-pack?
As for the trade-offs between do-it yerself vs kit ebikes: Like I mentioned, the kit I got was just shy of $1000, and I put it on a $300 bike. It took me all of 4 hours to put it together (and I know jack about bicycle assembly & maintenance.)
I saw models in an ebike store (underpowered ones starting at $2k and going to $3.5k.) None had the balance/center of gravity my do-it-yerselfer did, none were hub (were all semi-efficient chain drives, compromising the gear ratio to one degree or another,) and none had any more power or amp/hour capacity than the hub I picked up (in fact, all were significantly underpowered.)
The shop-owner, in typical bike-store owner fashion, sneered at me when I asked if he sold kits.
Oh, and unlike the store-boughts, I pull off the SLA batteries and I’ve essentially got the same bike (albeit one with a back-rack) that I had when I started. Helpful when the dog wants to go for a bike-ride.