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GM and Segway Look Ahead…To An Electric Rickshaw?

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GM-Segway Project P.U.M.A.

GM-Segway Project P.U.M.A.

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If you ask some of the foremost automotive designers, transportation experts, and futurists what personal transport will look like several decades from now, they’re likely to converge on a landscape that includes vehicles that are lower-impact, intelligent and networked, and definitely more intimate and personal. But you might not be doing the driving.

At the New York Auto Show today, General Motors and Segway are embracing this idea in a two-seat electric vehicle called Project P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility). The prototype, says Segway CEO Jim Norrod in an early morning release, demonstrates a “dramatically different approach to urban mobility.”

In case you missed the picture above, this “car” has two wheels and looks a bit like a rickshaw missing its runner (or bicycle), crossed with a wheelchair. And it ultimately would drive itself. And nope, April Fool’s Day was last week.

“Imagine small, nimble electric vehicles that know where other moving objects are and avoid running into them," said GM’s research and development chief, Larry Burns in the release. “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-Segway Project P.U.M.A.

GM-Segway Project P.U.M.A.

Enlarge Photo

The project combines GM’s work with electric vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications systems with Segway’s proprietary dynamic stabilization technology. The Project P.U.M.A. prototype employs dual electric motors, a lithium-ion battery pack, and “digital smart energy management” to carry two or more passengers at up to 35 miles per hour, for a respectable range of up to 35 miles.

The vehicle would ultimately drive and park autonomously, communicate automatically with other vehicles, and avoid traffic jams.

GM cites a trend toward urbanization, at the same time that cities are looking at ways to combat both congestion and air pollution. Such a vehicle might be good for those in dense cities and rapidly developing countries—if the Segway technology, lithium-ion batteries, and networking wouldn’t push the price through the ceiling.

Running costs, GM insists, are low; the Project P.U.M.A. vehicle would cost one-fourth to one-third of what today’s cars cost to own and run.

As if to address the other obvious reaction, that this moves us one step closer to car-as-appliance, the release mentions both the “emotional connection” that Segway owners have to Segway products, and Project P.U.M.A.’s opportunity to “let designers create new fashion trends for cars, and to focus on the passion and emotion that people express through their vehicles." That is, if people are looking up from their holographic social networking and out to their surroundings as they’re being scooted around.

It's an exciting future, but it hardly feels like an auto enthusiast’s dream, eh?

From New York, we’ll bring you the latest this morning as GM and Segway pull the wraps off the P.U.M.A.

GM-Segway Project P.U.M.A.

GM-Segway Project P.U.M.A.

Enlarge Photo
GM-Segway Project P.U.M.A.
GM-Segway Project P.U.M.A.

GM-Segway Project P.U.M.A.

Enlarge Photo
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Comments (4)
  1. "I'll take a dozen...."

    This is not a market-based solution to some pent-up demand. GM surveyed the political landscape and decided the only way to ensure a steady flow of dollars from Washington is to give the dominant party what they want. This is a green wet dream, the second of many more to come.
     
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  2. "Zenn and EESCAM"

    Get your facts straight Mr. Potter. Did you read what you typed. It's April 2009 and there is no CityZenn powered by EESTOR's ultracapacitor and there never will be.
    The original launch target for the highway capable CityZenn powered by EESTOR ultracapacitor/ceramic battery was scheduled for 2006. As of today it does not exist. Zenn's CEO Ian Clifford has been making excuses every year for the delay. No one outside EESTOR has seen the ceramic battery that is to power the CityZenn. Zenn's CEO Ian Clifford past automotive venture was a failure. Before he was involved with EESCAM, his Feel Good Cars (original name of CityZenn) was to be powered by hydrogen. The hydrogen powered FGC never materialized.
    TheCarConnection.com, Why don't you ask Mr. Dick Weir CEO of EESTOR to loan to you a prototype of the ceramic battery which meets the approved patent spec claims so you can test the unit? I can guarantee you Dick Weir will not loan you or any one else anything for testing.
     
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  3. "in addition"

    Ultracapcitor or not, a fuel cell for autos may not be too far away:
    http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/411/
    The Honda Clarity is already up and running:
    http://world.honda.com/FuelCell/
     
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  4. "Grand Pubah"

    This is the start of a good idea. But lots of people in big cities don't need to own a car. If the thing can drive itself and connects to the internet, why couldn't I use my cell phone to order one, to come to me, wherever I am?
    Several companies do this already, with small cars, in big cities, only You go to the car, the car doesn't come to you. Then you swipe your credit card on the windshield, and pay only for the time you use it. That way, cities need far fewer cars. There are a lot of cars that just sit idly most of the time. Lots of people, given a choice, between owning a car, with insurance, registration, mechanical problem hassles etc., and renting a car that comes to them, on an as-needed basis, would choose the latter.
     
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