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Segway teams with GM for pint-sized power wheels

By / April 7, 2009

General Motors and Segway are developing an electric two-seat prototype vehicle with just two wheels, which could allow people to travel around cities more quickly, safely, quietly, and cleanly, and at a lower total cost. The collaboration, dubbed Project P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) combines several technologies that increase mobility freedom with zero emissions, enhanced safety, seamless connectivity and reduced congestion in cities.

Emile Wamsteker/General Motors

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General Motors and Segway have joined forces to produce a two-wheel, two-seat, too-small-for-the-highway micro-car.

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These new PUMAs (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) are based on the motorized personal transporters that made Segway famous. But rather than standing on the scooter's two wheels, drivers sit on a well balanced bench encased in lightly protective walls.

GM and Segway hope the battery-powered vehicle will ease urban congestion and cut carbon emissions. During PUMA's debut in New York City today, the two companies revealed plans to partner with cities and universities to set up special PUMA lanes. Segway failed to carve out exclusive real estate for its scooters years ago, leading to the predicament that they were a little too fast for sidewalks and a little too slow for roads. PUMAs can reach 35 miles per hour.

These new sit-down models will come with new safety features. PUMA fleets could communicate across a wireless network, allowing them to avoid collisions and possibly navigate by themselves.

Even if the vehicles don't take off in the United States, the small craft might find success in crowded cities in the developing world, Chris Borroni-Bird, director of the project for GM, told USA Today. PUMAs can cruise 35 miles on a single charge, the energy equivalent of 200 miles per gallon of gasoline, he says.

Don't expect to see PUMAs in the wild until 2012, GM says. That is, if the project survives GM's current financial troubles.

"With a clock running down to a June 1 deadline that could push the company into bankruptcy protection, GM is using the unveiling to try and demonstrate that it retains prowess in new vehicle development having already seen its much-hyped Volt electric car described as unviable by the U.S. auto task force," reports The Wall Street Journal.

What do you think, readers? Will this bring Segway and GM the success it has grasped at for years?

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