Book of SEG

Segway updates:

  • There are major innovations occurring all of the time, and game-changing shifts every few years or so. The truly transformative products happen perhaps once or twice in a lifetime; the 20th Century saw the rise of the auto, the compute, and mass communication and entertainment (telephone, radio, television, Internet).

In 2001, Dean Kamen said that his invention “will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy.”

A more (relatively) pragmatic prediction came at the same time, from investor John Doerr: that the Segway company would be the fastest ever to reach $1 billion in sales.

A decade later, that target has not yet been met — I’m not even certain that the company has recouped the $100 million that it spent in development.

Setting an annual sales target of 40,000 was a bit optimistic, considering that fewer than that number have been sold over the course of the decade.

Oh, it has its strong points; for getting somewhere just slightly faster than your legs can carry you, there are few products that compare. Persons with legitimate physical limitations may indeed benefit from this alternative to powered wheelchairs and scooters. And for a brief while, devotees of high-tech gadgets had a field day before the next shiny gizmo with limited long-term usefulness came along.

At one of the first Segway launch parties, they lined up twenty Segways with messengers carrying gift baskets and had them “race” the length of the huge hall where the launch party was held. I think the messenger with a champagne and caviar won. His gift basket container was a beautiful bamboo carrying case with a handle which made carrying the gift basket while steering the segway that much easier. See if you can carry a gift basket while riding one of these. Its a new challenge. After the race there was a raffle where all the gift baskets were raffled off. I was one of the lucky raffle winners. I thoroughly enjoyed my premier wine gift basket with its trio of prestigious wines, smoked salmon, cheese and crackers, large vanilla caramels, peanuts, almond roca, and more. I ended up buying a gift basket for my wife for her birthday, but I never bought a Segway!

What’s Next for Segway?

The EN-V Project refers to “a vision for transportation in 2030″. For me, this begs the question: will we have to wait that long to buy one? Will it be longer for one that doesn’t suck?

I’m really missing something important here. For decades, masses of people have recognized that our current transportation system is critically flawed.

The impact of automobile culture has been devastating on many levels, including pollution from emissions, the rape of the natural landscape, and simple issues of congestion. We knew this halfway through last century, and yet the debate still drags on…

The best minds of industry have obviously decided that more R&D is called for, more ‘next-year’s prototypes’ must be unveiled, and more money and time must be wasted before we do what the people of our parents’ or grandparents’ generation had sufficient time, money, and motivation to do.