EN-V and Project PUMA

Ah, the good old Segway hasn’t been standing still after all (sorry, bad joke).

On one hand, this keeps GM and Segway working together, as two tried-and-true giants of late-night talk show monologue jokes. In that vein, we preferred “PUMA” to “EN-V” — though seemingly well-designed, the Puma is rarely seen, and has never become the dominant creature in its chosen environment.

The P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) is a prototype representing a shift that will eventually be needed for the future of transportation. You can be sure that Segway and GM have spent loads of money on its research and development. It’s intended for city dwellers who need a vehicle for short trips beyond walking distance. Since the PUMA is not yet in production, the price is yet to be determined. However, some folks have estimated that a PUMA will cost one-third to one-fourth of the cost of a traditional vehicle.

Perhaps one could say buying a PUMA is like comparing buying diamond rings to cubic zirconia rings. Cubic zirconia rings are durable with a close visual likeness to diamond rings, but are more low cost and therefore more accessible to more people. If you need a utilitarian, urban car but can’t afford to buy or keep a larger regular car, perhaps the PUMA will be the answer when they eventually become available. Just like maybe I could afford a cubic zirconia ring to give to my girl friend when a diamond ring is out of the question. Nevertheless, I guess I will have to start looking for an online cash advance if I want to purchase one. Realistically that type of short-term payday loan wouldn’t really do the job since the most money one could apply for is about $1000.00. I could buy a bike or a cubic zirconia ring for that amount of money.

This new vehicle is meant to drive on roads, mostly in the city, where it can interact with cars instead of threatening pedestrians and bikers on the sidewalks, like the original Segway lineup. With a high-tech carbon fiber composite body, you may actually survive the kinds of collisions that you’ll experience at 30mph or less. Plus, they actually do look kind of cool, in a geeky undergraduate design project sort of way. Who hasn’t wanted to drive around inside a Roomba? (not that we think you’re stupid, but we should point out that the preceding is what we call a rhetorical question, phrased to denote a certain amount of irony. That sort of thing is hard to put across on a blog).

Mity Mose in the US has yet to see one in use. This after almost 2 years. So what’s the story? She looked everywhere and can’t even buy one. There are some great photos and video you can download if you search for Segway Puma, but the site still says “prototype” which kind of says it all. There’s still an apparent connection between Segway and GM, although we haven’t ever seen any promotion of this partnership that I am aware of. But there’s always hope – quite clear that if the demand were there, this product would be in production. Perhaps the recession, fear of spending on new stuff, too geeky, too frail looking, too different – all common excuses or reasons, however your point of view. But the fact is that the world needs products like this. Not exactly like this, but products that can transport us without creating emissions or even fumes, while managing price and size. Puma would make a very cool city car – except the city’s mass transit is kind of dealing with that. Still, we feel that both robotics and small scale transportation are going to converge and become available as a must have product. Although GM and Segway hope that the PUMA would reach the market by 2012 , that date has passed by and you still can’t purchase one. Someday…