GM, Segway Showcase PUMA Pod

 
 
By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2009-04-07
 
 
 

When taxpayers bailed out General Motors, demanding that the automaker restructure for the future, President Obama may not have had this in mind: GM and Segway teaming to showcase an electrically powered, two-seat prototype vehicle that has only two wheels. They are calling it Project PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), which debuted April 7 in New York.

The 300-pound pod can travel at speeds up to 35 miles per hour with a range of up to 35 miles before needing a recharge. The PUMA also features an electric drive and all-electronic acceleration, steering and braking running on a lithium-ion battery. Segway's dynamic stabilization (two-wheel balancing) keeps the rig stable.

No pricing or availability was announced, but GM and Segway said the cost will be substantially less than regular automobiles.

"Project PUMA represents a unique solution to moving about and interacting in cities, where more than half of the world's people live," Larry Burns, GM vice president of research, development and strategic planning, said in a statement. Segway CEO Jim Norrod added, "We are excited to be working together to demonstrate a dramatically different approach to urban mobility."

Perhaps the most interesting feature on the prototype is the on-board electronics designed to make the PUMA avoid other cars, pedestrians and other objects. GM and Segway are calling the feature "autonomous driving and parking." Because the pod will avoid hitting objects, seat belts and airbags are unnecessary. It also includes a dockable user interface that allows off-board connectivity.

"Imagine small, nimble electric vehicles that know where other moving objects are and avoid running into them," Burns said. "Now, connect those vehicles in an Internet-like web, and you can greatly enhance the ability of people to move through cities, find places to park, and connect to their social and business networks."

GM and Segway said the prototype vehicle is designed to meet the increasing demands of urban transportation such as increased congestion, limited parking and pollution.

"There's an emotional connection you get when using Segway products," said Norrod. "The Project PUMA prototype vehicle embodies this through the combination of advanced technologies that Segway and GM bring to the table to complete the connection between the rider, environment and others."


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