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Segway Recalling 23,000 Scooters 162

Posted by kdawson
from the fear-of-falling dept.
DocJohn writes, "For the second time in 3 years, Segway has announced a recall of all Segway Personal Transporters. The problem described is that the Segway 'can unexpectedly apply reverse torque to the wheels, which can cause a rider to fall. This can occur when the device is tilted back by the Speed Limiter and the rider comes off and then back onto the device within a short period of time.' A software update is needed to fix the problem." This AP story mentions President Bush's 2003 stumble on a Segway without speculating on whether the cause was the software glitch behind the current recall.
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Segway Recalling 23,000 Scooters

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  • 23,500 (Score:2, Funny)

    by suso (153703) *
    So, pretty much all of them then.
    • Re:23,500 (Score:5, Informative)

      by crazyjeremy (857410) * on Thursday September 14, 2006 @09:55AM (#16104503) Homepage Journal
      Did you read the post? It says:
      For the second time in 3 years, Segway has announced a recall of all Segway Personal Transporters
    • look up:

      "For the second time in 3 years, Segway has announced a recall of all Segway Personal Transporters."
      • by ColaMan (37550)
        23,000 scooters all up? In what, 4 years?
        Something to do with that wallet-clenching price tag perhaps?

        It's hardly the blazing star of personal transport that Dean hoped it would be, that's for sure.
        • More to do with:

          - looking like a dork
          - not getting there much faster than pedestrians
          - demanding a bunch of freakin' space to stow my ride when I get there
          - not even getting a decent workout or saving any energy

          So unless you're fat and want to stay that way, a cheap bike or just walking beats it hands down.

          There's a tour company in my town that gives tours on segways. I've seen them in use, and they are useless. They can't go fast on pedestrian sidewalks. If part of my downtown real estate is going to be
    • Pretty much (Score:2, Interesting)

      by HatchedEggs (1002127)
      I am really surprised that when they ship the scooter they don't also inlude a connection so that you can upgrade its software directly via USB or something along those lines.

      Perhaps they are worried about proprietary software being stolen by anybody that can get their hands on one, but you'd think if you really wanted to you would be able to do that anyways.

      So all in all, why wouldn't they make it so that you can update software from home?

      Ahhh, well... on the other hand, I can see now where enthusiasts rel
      • by LochNess (239443)
        Perhaps they are worried about proprietary software being stolen by anybody that can get their hands on one, but you'd think if you really wanted to you would be able to do that anyways.

        They could also be worried about people uploading arbitrary code into them, and then getting the blame when something else goes wrong.
  • by crazyjeremy (857410) * on Thursday September 14, 2006 @09:53AM (#16104466) Homepage Journal
    For those who haven't seen Dubya's presidential tumble... see it here [mtrx.net]
    • by lxs (131946) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:03AM (#16104584)
      The president commented this morning on this latest development:

      "I did not fallify! Our secret service determined that the wheels of my Segway were spinning on an Axle of Evil. Mr. Kamen is on his way to Gitmo as we speak!"
    • I'm just amazed at how fast the blame of him falling is being moved to someone or something else.

      I thought he didn't play the blame game? :)
    • by ZPWeeks (990417) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:41AM (#16105008)
      That's not due to a software glitch. That's a special feature...
    • by opti6600 (582782) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:20PM (#16106106)
      Bush fell off of the unit because it wasn't turned on in the first place. He never keyed the unit to power, nor switched it to what's called "Balance Mode" - most of the introductory material highlights this extremely well. He took it out of the box and then stood on it. You're also supposed to charge it before use to condition the batteries, which he also failed to do.

      Also, "reverse torque" wouldn't cause him to fall -forward- unless he managed to have corrected it and somehow caused a wheel to spin out on flat, regular asphalt, which is nigh impossible.

      I'm honestly not too concerned with this recall - it seems like it happened when people first started to learn how to use the units, where they would get freaked out by the unit tilting back to warn them of the unit's speed limitations, and then stepped off. Jump right back on, and bad things -can- happen, apparently.

      -Jordan
      • by pimpimpim (811140)
        Not to defend GW here, but normally, it's not the task of a president to load the batteries of some device he might use. Really, it's not GW to blame here, but just some people in the team that didn't prepare the whole action. Normally, at events where such official people attend, the event is practized at least one time. That this happened is just stupidity from people organizing it, I would say.
    • by syousef (465911)
      I guess its not idiot proof yet.
  • by swelke (252267) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @09:55AM (#16104507) Homepage Journal
    This AP story mentions President Bush's 2003 stumble on a Segway without speculating on whether the cause was the software glitch behind the current recall.

    More likely he just didn't know how to ride particularly well yet. They do take some practice.
    • by plopez (54068)
      IIRC, it wasn't even turned on. SInce we don't have quatum software yet, I would say a software fault would a very low possibility.
    • by Slartibartfast (3395) * <[gro.stoj] [ta] [nek]> on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:05AM (#16104604) Homepage Journal
      Yes, they do. Apparently, however -- and I got this from someone who actually works at Segway -- he hadn't been given formal training, and stepped on it when it hadn't yet been powered up. No gyros spinning, DAMN hard to balance. (I actually made the same mistake -- you WILL go down when 100 lbs. with a very low center of balance is disagreeing with you.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ahecht (567934)
        Not to nitpick, but the gyros don't spin -- they're solid state.
        • So how does a non-spinning solid-state gyro work?

          The only thing I can think of is magic.

          • by sunwukong (412560)
            I was wondering about this too.

            Try searching for "solid state gyros". There's also this [gla.ac.uk] paper too.
            • That's because "gyro" means the thing that detects when the Segway is tilting, not the thing that actually keeps it from tilting, which is what I normally think of when I think of a gyroscope. I would assume balanced is maintained by mechanical gyroscopes coupled with computer control of the wheels.

              In other words, as I understand it, a solid-state gyro is an angular accelerometer.

              • by ahecht (567934)
                No gyroscopes are used to actually provide mechanical stabilization. The "gyros", which are really "angular rate sensors" feed into the computer, which controls the speeds of the drive wheels to make sure that the base is always under the CG of the vehicle (maintaining balance).
          • by mpoulton (689851)

            So how does a non-spinning solid-state gyro work? The only thing I can think of is magic.

            Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. However, this technology has been around for awhile, so think harder. There are several types of solid-state gyros. The simplest type is an integrating accelerometer (suffers from significant drift and all the maladies of integrating analog-digital conversion signals, but only cost a couple bucks). The next step up from that is a piezo ring

            • The problem is that I was thinking "gyro" in terms of a gyroscope that helps the thing keep balance, not a gyroscope to detect when it's tilting. A solid-state gyroscope is just an angular accelerometer. That's still a cool application of technology, but if they can make the "other" kind of gyroscope with laser, i.e., a device that creates angular inertia, then I'll think it's magic. ;-)

        • by Daath (225404)
          Solid state gyroscope. Yeeees. Please wear this nice white coat. What? Yes, I know the arms are twisted to hug yourself. ;-)

          Actually the gyroscopes doesn't affect the balance, they're used as sensors (well, in that way they do affect balance)...
          • by Daath (225404)
            And then I googled it, and fould several methods to make a solid state gyroscope [google.com]... Nice! :-D
            • by jtev (133871)
              Sure, but when most people hear the word gyroscope, they are expecing, you know, a gyroscope, not an angular accelerometer. You know, something that spins. These devices only detect "spin" which while usefull in the way they are used, just isn't as good as a real gyroscope.
  • Balance (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    George Bush losing balance has nothing to do with the software glitch. Or Segways, for that matter.
  • Shocking (Score:5, Funny)

    by eyeball (17206) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @09:56AM (#16104513) Journal
    The shocking part of the story: there are 23,000 Seqway's out there?

    • by QuantumG (50515)
      Yeah, maybe someone who was working on the software thought it would be funny to throw a few of these swells off their fancy scooters.
    • by sdo1 (213835)
      I was going to phrase it a different way. I was shocked that there was ONLY 23,000 Segway's out there. They've been selling them for how many years now? And even at $6K a pop, that's really not enough money to keep a company like that afloat for too long. -S
      • That's a pretty small run in three years for something that is going to change the world. Even if it was only in the US, that would still be much less than 1/10000 penetration.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Electrum (94638)
        I was shocked that there was ONLY 23,000 Segway's out there. ... And even at $6K a pop, that's really not enough money to keep a company like that afloat for too long.

        Yeah, $138m isn't very much money.
      • Especially with 2 complete recalls in 3 years. That can't be cheap...
    • Re:Shocking (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:42AM (#16105027) Homepage Journal
      This is where some of our DHS money went. Granted, supposedly it has really paid off for patrolling cops in reducing vandalism, though I don't know what benefit they have over bicycles that offset the steep cost difference.
    • by soft_guy (534437)
      there are 23,000 Seqway's out there

      I think Piaggio sells that many Vespas every day.
  • by Noose For A Neck (610324) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @09:57AM (#16104529)
    Hopefully, they'll screw up their patch and make sure everyone who rides a segway gets thrown ass-over-teakettle as soon as they get on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jimstapleton (999106)
      Why, there are plenty of valid reasons for getting/using them. It's not just an "I have too much money on my hands" kind of thing.

      Ex, I've got bad vision and can't drive a street operated motor vehicle. A segway could actually be useful for me in this case, especially in a city with less than sufficient mass transit.

      Now, Yes, I could ride a bike, but so could everyone who drives their own car.

      • by karnal (22275)
        Bad vision and anything much faster than walking will be a danger to those who are walking around. Of course, I guess it would depend on your definition of "bad"....

        Unless you could put the seeing eye dog ahead of you on another segway....
      • by ozbird (127571)
        Why, there are plenty of valid reasons for getting/using them. It's not just an "I have too much money on my hands" kind of thing.

        I particularly like the military version with the rocket launcher, second from the right in the recall notice. :-)
        (No, they just look like golf clubs: a golfer on a Segway would form a critical mass of dorkiness, and I'm not sure the universe could survive that.)
    • Hopefully, they'll screw up their patch and make sure everyone who rides a segway gets thrown ass-over-teakettle as soon as they get on.

      Then they can make it a sport to see how long you can stay on. And a pit of Segways will soon replace the mechanical bull at Honky-Tonk bars everywhere!
  • by Entanglebit (882066) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:00AM (#16104553)
    A software update is needed to fix the problem
    Your scooter is now downloading Critical Updates necessary to keep me in line. So get the hell off my back or I will dump you off, so help me God.
  • This AP story mentions President Bush's 2003 stumble on a Segway without speculating on whether the cause was the software glitch behind the current recall.

    Dean Kamen was unavailable for comment as he was being held in an undisclosed location.

    It's a joke, lighten up...

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:07AM (#16104625)
    This doesn't surprise me. It's just another example of how easily programmers fall into the trap of common "use cases" when writing software. Too often, programs are written on the assumption on a simple linear chain of events driven by a use case. In the Segway example, it would appear that the people who wrote the control logic for the scooter assumed that people would get on the machine from a full stop and get off the machine at a full stop. Remounting the machine during the stopping process violated this assumption and exposed a fault in the control logic. I see this type of problem all the time on e-commerce sites (even Amazon.com has the problem) when the buyer attempts to unroll part of a transaction to change something or check an alternative path in the buy/ship/bill/confirm cycle.

    The point: always assume the user might do anything at any point in time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sandbenders (301132)
      Not to be over-argumentative, but typically I see the opposite problem- developers spending 80% of our budget hours to gracefully handle 8 .01% chance cases, leaving not enough hours to do a really nice job with the two cases that are happening 99.9% of the time. I understand that all use cases need to be accounted for- this makes sense- but the some developers closing all the holes more important than doing an nice job with the important cases. There must be a balance.

      Heh- I just almost signed this with my
      • I agree with you on this - it's too easy to get fixated on rare cases and miss the bigger picture. The challenge is that there are two types of "important" use cases. First, are the ones which most people take -- the 99.9% use cases. Second are the ones that lead to serious consequences -- e.g., falling off the Segway or losing a customer.

        The core challenge is to create robust software that performs well most of the time (the 99% common case) and does not perform badly in the rare (1%) cases. Thinking a
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:07AM (#16104626)
    It was an intelligence failure. No one could have predicted it. Any criticism of it is emboldening our enemies.
  • Is it a good thing that a transportation device like the Segway could need a software update, as it threatens the safety of the user? What happens when software tech really makes it into our cars and other vehicles, and a company has to recall all their models because a 'minor software glitch' causes the brakes to fail? Hopefully there'll be a lot more safeguards built into the cars of the future.
    • Microsoft, apparently, has an automotive division. [microsoft.com] I just hope that they treat this software with more care than they do Windows. I don't really feel like having to hook my car up to the 'net every night to check for patches.
    • What happens when software tech really makes it into our cars and other vehicles...

      What do you mean? It is been in cars and other vehicles (all modern airplanes) for years. We rely on embedded microprocessors and microcontrollers for most of our day, in engine management systems, braking, in car safety, fly-by-wire, etc. etc. etc. And its not just a couple of if-then-elses. There is some serious code out there. And it works. Most of the time.

      Have a look at the Risks Digest [ncl.ac.uk] if you want to find out how fa

  • Hell, I give em props for *initiating* the recall, not *responding* to recall demands.

    And FWIW, I've seen two in San Antonio, TX... one guy cruising down the sidewalk in front of Lackland AFB, and a new upscale shopping center (La Cantera?) has Segways for their security guards. You'll notice a lot of ramps connecting different levels... not only for handicapped, but for the Segways.

    Saw a guard cruising down the ramp... he saw me coming with a grin on my face, and beat me to the punch. "Nope, sorry, you c
    • In our brief chitchat, he mentioned that they all love them, really reduces the wear and tear on the body that your normal security goon has to deal with.

      I never realized that being a 'mall guard' goon was such a rough lifestyle.

      • by RedOregon (161027)
        Well, I've got chronic plantar fasciitis in both feet, and I know walking around a shopping center *all day long* would KILL me! Granted they don't *do* much, but that much time on my feet just makes me hurt.
      • by Dun Malg (230075)
        I never realized that being a 'mall guard' goon was such a rough lifestyle.
        "Security guard" is an awful job, health wise. It involves mostly sitting on your ass watching monitors and eating out of boredom (no reading allowed), punctuated by occasional long walks on hard surfaces wearing bad shoes and carrying 20lbs excess weight gained from spending so much time sitting and eating.
  • the Segway can unexpectedly apply reverse torque to the wheels, which can cause a rider to fall
    HA-HA!
  • by dr_dank (472072) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:24AM (#16104788) Homepage Journal
    Segways are like fat chicks. They're both fun to ride until one of your friends sees you.
  • A dramatic visual demonstration of this problem will appear in the movie Jackass 3.

    I'm sure.

  • Amazing (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cctoide (923843) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:39AM (#16104973) Homepage
    Wow... for once, a product recall that isn't issued because the products are catching on fire and/or exploding! Simply amazing.
    • by iggymanz (596061)
      they do explode and catch fire, but the customer doesn't inform the manufacturor in those cases
  • If I replaced my car with a Segway -- the Transportation Tool of the Future (tm) -- how do I get it to the service centre now that it's officially dangerous to ride? (Stand on?)
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @10:45AM (#16105072) Journal
    Stupid Segway, it is recalling scooters and trying to fix it. The right thing to do is to encourage everyone to follow "responsible disclosure" which means nobody should disclose anything about it. If and when a fix is ready, post instructions on how to fix it once a month, on a Tuesday. Then people should get the replacement parts mailed to them and they should install the "patches". That is the way to billions folks.
    • No, actually. The reason for the "voluntary recall" is that the Consumer Product Safety Commission gives manufacturers an option. They can either do a "voluntary recall", or the CPSC can do it the hard way, with injunctions, orders, fines, and bans on further sales of the product. That results in announcements like Dynacraft To Pay $1.4 Million Penalty for Failing to Report Hazard with Mountain Bicycles [cpsc.gov]. "The forks, which are part of the steering column, can break apart and separate from the front wheel,

      • You mean Segway could not have wrapped the whole dammed scooter in some kind of saran wrap and a stuck a tiny sticker on it saying,

        By ripping opening the saran wrap you agree that this product has absolutely no warranty and you give up all rights to be protected by CPSC. You only get a license to use this product, the product is still owned by me. I dont make any claims about fitness of this product for any use. I am not responsible for any damages that happend to you because I made a defective product. W

  • Not bad really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pgregory (769530)
    Personally, I think they should be congratulated, for two reasons. Firstly, as has already been mentioned, this is a pro-active recall. Secondly, two recalls in 3 years for something as complex and innovative as this is pretty good going. Why is it that a Segway recall makes front page news, whereas the thousands of other recalls that happen in most industries on a daily basis go unnoticed. I recently had to have a software upgrade on my car (BMW) and doing some research of my own suggests that BMW provid
  • Thus poving again that no press coverage is good press coverage.

    But I'm not sure it was that way.
  • by SockPuppet_9_5 (645235) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:09AM (#16105348) Journal
    The Segway was created to help change the way we design our cities, but it seems ended up changing the way we design our dental plans...
  • .' A software update is needed to fix the problem.'
    I can see it now: "Please wait while Segway Genuine Advantage validates your copy of the Segway opeating system...This may take several minutes..."
  • by denttford (579202) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:27AM (#16105537) Homepage
    "Rollback across America!"

    Thanks, I'll be here all week.
  • Sorry, couldn't resist.

    But wait until they start recalling colored lasers.
  • Just the other day the Sam's Club web page had an ad for Segway XTs. Now the ad is gone and a site search returns nothing about them. Maybe they were worried that if they ever wanted to use Wal-mart's 'Rollback pricing' slogan it might send the wrong message.
  • hey, if you can't stay on the Segway to begin with, why shouldn't it feel the need to kick you off again? Bush's bicycles should be so smart. ;-/

    Quick, someone stick a couple of auto-iris CCD cameras( with plate aluminum sun visors ) on the Segway handlebars and call it a 'Johnny 5+'!

    LoB
  • I can probably find less expensive ways of looking like a dork...
  • So, let's see if I can nail down the chain of events now that we have the benefit of hindsight:

    1. Company makes a product that solves a simple problem with an overly complex technological gadget.
    2. Due to the system's complexity, some corner cases were missed, and the system fails.

    Wow, it is so difficult to imagine this could've happened...

  • Most of the cost of the Segway comes from the balancing act it has to do. Yes 2 wheeled transport in the form of bikes has been around for over a hundred years but they don't balance themselves, you learn to ride a bike and balance it the it's your fault as the user if you go ass over tit. So long as the Segway needs power and a computer to not make you fall on your ass, it'll be an expensive mistake to own. You're much better off with a bike than a scooter or this contraption.

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