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Buy a Segway... Please 836

aedunn writes "Wired has an article about everyone's favorite Human Transporter - Segway. Seems as though the company is looking at some hard times. Among other things, the article cites Segway's price, low speed and tightened spending in the corporate world as reasons for Segway's slow sales."
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Buy a Segway... Please

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  • I think we all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:06AM (#5334742)
    knew this was going to happen. It's the dotcom bubble all over again; useless products at high prices, with expectations inflated by hype and spin. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
  • It's no wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gudlyf ( 544445 ) <(moc.ketsilaer) (ta) (fyldug)> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:07AM (#5334752) Homepage Journal
    What a time to try selling these things, right when the Northeast US has been hit by blizzard-like snows. Not so Segway-friendly, I imagine. Probably the #1 reason why I thought they were a bad idea in the first place.
  • by glrotate ( 300695 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:08AM (#5334756) Homepage
    That they're rather pointless and only marginaly more usefull than a $50 bike?
  • wake up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joe the Lesser ( 533425 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:09AM (#5334768) Homepage Journal
    "I wouldn't have predicted the mountain would be so big," Kamen says, "and that there would be so many hills to cross to get to the top."

    This guy makes more money than I do?

    I've only seen those things in use in bad sitcoms. They're ugly, awkward, expensive, and completely unneccessary for living today. I've seen fifth graders come up with better inventions.
  • by TerryAtWork ( 598364 ) <> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:09AM (#5334770)
    The fact that you have to STAND while riding a Segway!

    If they just stuck a seat on it everything would be different.

  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:10AM (#5334776)
    The Segway, no matter how advanced it is, is not something people were anxious to have. Maybe there are uses for it, but people don't see them, and they don't want them.

    Toss in the down economy, and it's no surprise.

    I don't think the plans for selling Segway were any more than "it's so cool and the guy behind it has a great reputation," and that is NOT enough.

    It's basic economics.
  • Ha ha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nelsonal ( 549144 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:11AM (#5334790) Journal
    Its funny, if he hadn't had such high expectations, he could have a small but profitable and growing company, it sounded like he had orders for 10 per week or 520 per year, if he had not leased a 70,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility, and planned to revolutionize the world selling thousands a week, which increased his fixed costs, and the numbers he needed to sell to be profitable, this would be a completely different story. Google did it right, grow at a sustainable rate, and do not try to get too big too fast.
  • Re:this just in (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rushiferu ( 595361 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:16AM (#5334844)
    Hey! In all fairness they do have a business plan:

    1. Overhype a useless product.
    2. A miracle occurs.
    3. Profit!!!

    I wonder what type of business degree you need to come up with such complex business strategies?
  • Wait a minute... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:17AM (#5334851)
    I thought they were not selling these to the general public yet. Rather, only to business and municipalities and such. If not, then perhaps they should try something that all the cool businesses are doing nowadays: ADVERTISE! MARKETING! BTW: I said when I first saw this thing that it was not going to be a big hit. It's a scooter! Yes, it is probably the most revolutionary scooter. Yes, it is cool technology. Yes, it would be neat to own won. But it's still a $3K+ scooter! The general public will not get past that. Replace the car? Hardly! Joe Dirt has no where to carry his case of Bud. >
  • Market Backlash (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rob_from_ca ( 118788 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:17AM (#5334856) Homepage
    Anothe strike against the company, backlash from all the hype. We were promised an earth shattering, mind blowing, world changing "it" of an invention. "Something people would design cities around." Instead we get an expensive scooter that you can't take with you on public transit, use on many city streets, drive on the street, or fit in your car to take with you. After a year of magical mystery hype about this wonderful invention and "leaks" about the nature of it, even if it cost $50, I'd probably not buy one out of spite.
  • Re:this just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stinky wizzleteats ( 552063 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:19AM (#5334878) Homepage Journal

    A company with an overpriced useless product and no business plan is having trouble surviving. Film at 11.

    Actually, he had a business plan. He makes accessibility machines for people who are disabled. His stair climbing machine, Fred Estaire, gave rise to the name of Segway, "Ginger". The plan was basically this - selling Fred Estaires to disabled people restricts your target market. Ginger could be marketed to anyone, so the market would be immensely larger. The flaw is that this equipment is expensive to design and manufacture, which makes its price point well outside the range of what fully mobile people would consider paying for a simple vehicle. Disabled people will spend four figures on something that restores lost mobility and independence. Other people won't drop that much cash on what is for them a toy.

  • by vnv ( 650942 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:19AM (#5334879)
    it will be good riddance if segway goes away.

    while people all over the world rely on the bicycle to get around -- and get some exercise -- only a greedy and fat US company would dare offer a $5000 no-exercise pod mobile.

    you can also think of a segway as a little coal power plant. the power electricity we use, the more pollution. or if you don't like coal, how about a nuclear power plant? it certainly doesn't run on solar power.

    segway's leverage of the corrupt government markets is another part of this company's devious business plan. by making industrial models that sell for far more than the standard $5000 model and then getting the public to pay for them.

    maybe the many millions of dollars that went into segway and all the hype could have used to build more bikepaths and walkways?

    all in all, a segway is nothing but a expensive toy that meets no actual societal needs. it is antoher remnant of the dotcom era meeting its just demise.

  • Re:this just in (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scoove ( 71173 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:23AM (#5334911)
    overpriced useless product

    East/west coast yuppie people (I'm stereotyping, I know!) apparently don't seem to know that times are tough in other parts.

    As a broadband provider to part of fly-over country, I can attest that things are tight. I just had a fellow who's been overanxious for broadband to come to his town announce yesterday that he's "holding off, paying down a few credit cards, and taking it cautiously with the war coming and all the new taxes they're dumping on us."

    People have done an amazing job cutting luxuries, and are even tightning the belt on necessities. Tons of layoffs to bump stock prices and all the other factors have finally done their trick. It's ultimately self-defeating though.

    Certainly Segway knew it was a luxury item, right? (Yea, I know, "everyone's gotta have one" culture inside, right?)


  • Re:Ha ha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sulli ( 195030 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:30AM (#5334985) Journal
    And the guy could have spent less money on lobbying every state in the union to change its traffic laws to accommodate the thing and instead focused on making it just a wee bit cheaper? Just a thought. Powell and Peralta sure didn't worry about legalizing skateboards on the streets of LA - they just sold 'em.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:33AM (#5335003)
    They were of limited use in a world populated by pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages, and there weren't very many good roads for them in the early years. Many people argued they'd be of use to any one and that horses were better. (They didn't break down as much!). But after a couple decades, car builders managed to make them more reliable, and roads were built, and now many people can't imagine living without one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:34AM (#5335007)
    Kamen has a history of being brilliant. Sometimes that translates to reality, like some of his medical devices. Other times, he misses the mark. Look at the iBot: bloody genius piece of hardware that could help people with disabilities lead better lives. But the thing is horrendously expensive, and the vast majority of the people who could use it can't come close to affording it. My wife happens to use a conventional electric wheelchair... and even that costs US$8,000. Insurance companies won't touch something like the iBot.

    The Segway isn't so expensive, but it has simple social stigmas attached to it: it looks utterly ridiculous, and does present a hazard to pedestrians, regardless of what the company might say to the contrary.

    Sure Jobs got excited about it... he's another guy who thinks outside the box. Most people prefer the comfort of their boxes, however. God bless 'em both for having the courage to be original in a world that rewards conformity, and languishes in complacency.
  • by redNuht ( 213553 ) <rednuht AT rednuht DOT org> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:34AM (#5335010)
    Agreed. That's exactly why bikes are *the* HT of choice in Southeastern Asia. In some cities almost every single individual uses a bike every day. It's kinda like Kamen's "dream", but much cheaper and healthier.
  • Re:this just in (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bivouac_2000 ( 253526 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:34AM (#5335015)
    Disabled people will spend four figures on something that restores lost mobility and independence. Other people won't drop that much cash on what is for them a toy.

    This is the dead on truth. When I first saw the unveiling of the Segway my immediate thought was, "This will be great for the disabled" and NOT, "Wow I can't wait to ride on that thing!"

    Kamen erred in attempting to mass market an invention that occupies a niche in the entire scheme of things. Add to that fact design flaws like low top speed, crummy battery life and you have a piece of overpriced junk.

  • by AlgUSF ( 238240 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:39AM (#5335052) Homepage
    Stupidest invention ever. I own a 2002 Honda Civic, let's compare it to the Segway.

    Top Speed: 12MPH
    Range : 10 Miles
    Max Occupants: 1

    Honda Civic:
    Top Speed: 110MPH
    Max Occupants: 5 (Plus a huge trunk for storage)
    Range : Unlimited (or until I run out of gas money)

    Considering my Honda Civic cost only 3 times as much as a segway, and I get much more utility from it. I live in Florida, so an A/C is required (or it is no better than my bike).
  • by Subotai ( 34761 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:44AM (#5335086)
    So he thought a bunch of people were going to buy a $3000 battery powered "2 wheeler" that can't go 10 miles, work in rain, snow, ice, unpaved or poorly paved locations, had no repair network, no mag wheels option and no place to hold a super size drink?
  • by GuNgA-DiN ( 17556 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:44AM (#5335094)
    I live in New England. We got 27" of snow here this week. And, when it isn't snowing -- it's either cold, raining, or miserable out. Out of 365 days it is probably nice, warm and sunny about 85 of them. So if you want to talk about impractical -- the Segway is it. If you live in Arizona where it is warm and sunny 91% of the time.... sure. But, in this climate a Segway is nothing but an expensive toy that you can putz around on. It's not going to replace the automobile anytime soon!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:45AM (#5335102)
    Let's see, one person transport, two wheels?

    Tried and true technology, been around since the 19th century, with plenty of refinements that have made it better over the years...

    Oh, and no %$#@$#% batteries to charge...EVER!

    It's called a bicycle!
  • Goddammit! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:48AM (#5335124)
    I get so angry reading the comments posted here about the Segway. Move on if you don't want to read some vitriol. I'm sorry, but it needs to be said.

    Look - the Segway is an attempt to alleviate the total unmitigated disaster that is modern automotive traffic.

    If you could all be so kind as to take a step back.. waaayyy back. Think of cars, particularly in cities. The fatalities. The noise. The pollution. The cost. The traffic. The space they take up. Were a self-respecting geek to examine this system from above, encountering it for the first time, I imagine they would recoil in horror. I can't see it as anything but a giant cluster-fuck.

    Look at New York, downtown. Practically everyone living there would tell you that traffic is nigh-on impossible. But still, we tolerate it. We love our cars. We cannot give them up, not now, not ever... in fact, we want bigger ones!

    People will not come to terms with the fact that the responsible thing to do is to explore these options. We simply must.

    Now, I am fully aware of the Segway's limitations. Obviously it has problems with inclement weather, battery life, etc. Again, I must remind the reader that this is the first of it's kind. The arguments presented against the Segway are often ludicrous:

    - "i can't use my hands".. you can't when you drive either
    - "i've gotta stand up".. that's part of the point, they take up less room
    - "they'll kill people on sidewalks".. amazing, this argument. It's a total non-starter. Anyone on rollerblades or a bike is much more of a danger.

    Come on! We are the ones who should be embracing this! Who's gonna convince Kamen to invent the Segway you really want? You know, the chariot version, that gets 5x the distance, and is 1/5 the price? It cannot get here by itself.

    I'm sorry for the rant, but frankly the blank-faced pessimism disgusts me. Where is your sense of wonder, Slashdot? Don't be like those fucking lemmings who close the case on new technology before it's even been tried.

  • Denial Mode (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CallistoLion ( 651747 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:49AM (#5335133)
    The battery runs out after two hours, and to change it: "You pull out eight bolts, put in two new batteries, tighten up the eight bolts, and continue on your route."

    At 80 pounds how do you get it out of your car's trunk? "It's easy," Smith chirps. "I grab one side and get a friend to lift the other."

    Tell those engineers to put away the happy pills.

  • by aengblom ( 123492 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:53AM (#5335164) Homepage
    Its great technology and a rather good job of engineering but most people need to walk more not less.

    In other words: People just aren't willing to even consider giving up The Car. I'm not pointing to you specifically, but people keep pointing out -- WHY NOT WALK. Well, would obviously extend the range / ease of getting to nearby shops etc.

    I think this may have been Mr. Karmen's primary blind spot. He was looking at replacing the car. People see this as "better walking".

    I don't need $3,000 shoes even if they do make my walking twice as easy.
  • Unfortunately... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CommieLib ( 468883 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:02PM (#5335238) Homepage
    Dean Kamen designed some incredibly sophisticated electronics and computer controls that do the job of a third wheel.
  • Re:this just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lechter ( 205925 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:06PM (#5335271)

    Kamen's wheel chair design is excellent and well worth the money for the disabled, since it gives them much greater access to the existing infrastructure by allowing them to climb stairs. And it lets look people in the eye too, which I guess is good.

    Unfortunately with all they hype, the statements that Ginger aka IT would "change the way future cities are designed," good ideas like the wheelchair were lost in the typical dot-com boom of investors trying to join the revolution. Unfortunately revolutions in urban design don't happen, cities are big and people don't like to redesign them very often. (I'd argue that this is why fuel cell/electric/gas/etc. cars will be a long time in coming.)

    The amazing thing is that people "in the know" about what "IT" were willing to join the hype. Oh, well just call this natural evolution in business...

  • Sour Grapes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:07PM (#5335282) Journal
    I've been through many of these posts, and they all seem to revel in the difficulty of the Segway company. Geez. By the reactions, you'd think a Segway had sex with your mom and then said, "I just wanna be friends..."

    I think that the 'angry' responses are from people who would buy one if they could easily afford one - much like linux users who put down macs, while secretly drooling over one.

    Did it deserve the huge media hype? Does American Idol? Probably not. Will it make you fat? No. Will cities tear out roads to accomadate it? No. Was it overhyped? Yes. Is there any reason to kick it when its down? No.

    The Segway seems to be a good product that is trying to fill a niche. Since it *is* overpriced, and fighting a cultural battle (SUVs driven to get the mail at the end of the driveway), it won't do well. I think the idea is ahead of its time. Change the way cities are built? Maybe. But not now.

    Just remember, the Segway didn't have sex with your mom. I did.

  • by dmorin ( 25609 ) < minus bsd> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:14PM (#5335340) Homepage Journal
    Dean Kamen did not suddenly appear out of nowhere with the Segway. He's been around for years inventing some amazing things that have helped mankind. He's damned near a modern Thomas Edison (go look at some of his patents for real inventions, not just algorithms like us software geeks have to worry about). But for the most part his press was substantially limited. If you didn't have a medical problem that required one of his devices, or a kid that was part of his FIRST competition, odds are you never heard of him.

    I still wonder, what changed? What caused him to suddenly try to take over the world like this? I prefer to think that it was just the pressure of the dotcom boom that got to him. Too many venture capitalists whispering in his ear that he was missing out on the big picture. It's a shame, really. If this thing came out with about a hundredth of the fan fare, then he'd probably be doing fine, and none of us would be looking at him like a crackpot -- and a few years from now we'd all have one. But this nonsense about hiring thousands of lobbyists and such was really pretty ridiculous. He knows full well that "good for you" technology cannot be shoved down the public's throats. I just don't understand what he was thinking.

  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:19PM (#5335375) Homepage
    Your analogy is utterly flawed. The difference between then and now is that the automobile was MUCH better while the Segway is, at best, a little better, but overall, actually much worse.

    Because the automobile offered so many advantages over walking and the horse and buggy, people were willing to pay the price of building and rebuilding roads to suit the new vehicle. But, who is willing to rebuild our cities to use a Segway? Because of weather our cities would have to be domed. Are you willing to pay for that?

    If not, are businesses willing to provide showers and changing rooms for employees who drive in on Segways? No way. Currently their employees get to work via cars, busses and trains. Why should businesses be compelled to spend MORE money so employees could get there via Segways?! There is no advantage to change.

    Similarly, there is no advantage to change our streets, because we are currently getting where we need to be without changing them.

    And right now I can go shopping and actually have room in my car to bring home enough groceries for a family of 4. There is no advantage for me to suddenly change my shopping practices and go every day, getting only a few things at a time. Wasting MORE time at the supermarket is certainly not an advantage in my book!

    I could go on and on, but it's a simple fact that the automobile offered huge advantages that the horse and buggy did not. That is why we changed our society to suit the automobile. We will never do that for the Segway because doing so would mostly offer disadvantages, not advantages.

  • by irix ( 22687 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:23PM (#5335423) Journal

    What's wrong with the Hummer H2, and what about it would make the buyer an idiot?

    Well, we are offtopic here, but since you asked...

    The H2 is a Chevy Tahoe in some fancy body cladding that they are charging twice the money for. It doesn't have half of the offroad capabilities of the real Hummer (HMMWV), which was selected by the U.S. military because it was the best wheeled offroad vehicle they could get.

    So, the people who are buying the H2 are doing it for the look-cool factor, but all they are getting is a minivan that uses three times as much gas. Sure, people might buy the original Hummer for the look-cool factor too, but at least they are getting the real deal.

  • by Xerithane ( 13482 ) <xerithane@nerd[ ] ['far' in gap]> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:26PM (#5335445) Homepage Journal
    What's wrong with the Hummer H2, and what about it would make the buyer an idiot?

    Aside from the fact that SUVs are proven to be unsafe to other drivers on the roads? The fact that most people who drive SUVs don't know how to drive well, especially a vehicle that big. The difference between the H2 and the Hummer is the H2 is a luxury car. It is not made to go off-roading. For that you buy an H1.

    H2s aren't that expensive, when it comes to status symbols either. You look much cooler going around in a CLK55, S600, SL600, BMW 7 series, etc. H2s make you look like a total dork. The only girls who will think your H2 is a cool car are those who don't understand Little-dick-syndrome, and that the H2 doesn't really make your dick bigger.

    I wouldn't say that the buyer is an idiot, I would say it is a dumbass choice in a vehicle. Unless you use an SUV for sport purposes, I think the person makes a dumbass choice if they buy one. If you are driving around town, get a fucking car and save the other drivers on the road and a few bucks in gas.
  • Re:this just in (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ptorrone ( 638660 ) <> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:36PM (#5335548)
    the segway ht has been pretty useful for me, saving $, gave up a car, getting to work / home sooner, having more time to do things i like. []

  • Re:Read about 'em (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ptorrone ( 638660 ) <> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:08PM (#5335818)
    i got around 8 miles, it tackles the hills fine, i take sidewalks, alleys and roads...i get to work 15 minutes faster than i did with my car. the segway ht isn't for everyone, works great for me though. i do bike in when i don't need to be dressed up or on weekends. it's all about lowering the total number of car trips, everyone here seems to think if it's not for them, it's not for everyone, the world isn't black and white. i took a car in the other day, the segway or a bike or a car isn't a religion, it's a daily choice, the more choices the better.
  • Re:Fills a need... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by madfgurtbn ( 321041 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:15PM (#5335881)
    The thing is that there's aalready a wide array of ways to move around. Walking (free) for short distances. Biking (cheap) for longer distances. Then there's driving (relatively cheap) for short to long distances. Segway just doesn't fill any real need.

    That is just so wrong.

    Walking: Americans simply will not walk even a couple blocks to the corner store. Take it out of the equation.

    Biking: In the US, bicycles are required to remain on the streets. Probably 95% of bike riders will not venture onto the typical American suburban thoroughfare, which in most cases is the only route between home and work.

    Driving: If you think driving a car is relatively cheap, you make too much money off that pr0n site, 9-9. The incremental cost of driving a few miles may be low, but the overall cost is very high.

    We drive a hell of a lot of short trips under 5 miles that would be just perfect for SHT. In fact, many short trips would be better on SHT than in a car, because parking would be no problem. I ride my bike all summer long and love the freedom of wheeling right up to the door of some establishment and leaning my bike against the wall outside the door. But we know people will not ride bikes for short trips, will they? I regularly ride 75 mi in a day on my bike, but most people think that is insane. Most people will not ride 5 miles on their bike. Many people cannot. Even if they are willing, they are afraid to do it in the traffic.
  • Re:Goddammit! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RazzleFrog ( 537054 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:24PM (#5335953)
    I don't know even where to begin. People don't walk becaus they can't drive. Most people who live in Manhattan don't even own cars. There is no need for them. There are subways and buses that take you pretty much anywhere (except for the East Side but someday there will be a 2nd avenue line). People walk from public transportation to their office.

    There are some people who drive into the city but most of the traffic in the city is cabs, trucks, and buses and those are three things that aren't going to be replace by segways. I can just see some tourists coming in from the airport with their luggage being dragged behind them on its rollers.

    As for safety, cars and bicycles don't ride on the sidewalk (at least not legally). There is only interaction between pedestrians and automobiles when people cross the street. With segways the idea is that pedestrians and segways would be interwoven.

    There is a big difference between being realistic and being closed minded.
  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:25PM (#5335962) Homepage
    This is really interesting question! Segway depends on traction of both wheels to stay upright. If one wheel loses (or lowers) its traction then following things should happen:

    1. The wheel on ice spins up
    2. This won't help the Segway to stay upright, so it tilts forward and turns
    3. The other wheel will try to compensate, and spins up, keeping Segway upright - and turning it even more in the process
    4. You end up spinning around the patch of ice. Now you have following options:
      • The wheel stays on ice. Then you continue spinning. Probably, you will be thrown off of your Segway by centrifugal forces.
      • The wheel regains traction. Then you continue your trip, but in random direction :-)

    No doubt in my mind, Segway is suitable only for perfect weather, and probably for summer only. It was raining this morning, for example, and I was very glad to find myself in a comfortable, warm car instead of a shaking, slippery Segway.

  • Re:Fills a need... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jafac ( 1449 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:26PM (#5335967) Homepage
    Not just walking. . .
    how about:
    "walking, only in very mild weather"

    Who'd want to ride a Segway in 6" of snow, with 30 mph wind at 10 deg. F?

    Then, not be able to park it indoors, and later come out to find it stolen.
  • Re:this just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by madfgurtbn ( 321041 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:28PM (#5335992)
    Its page tries in vain to sell it, protesting its uncanny ability to go backwards, go up slopes (gasp!), and even "self balance". The trouble is - people with fully functional legs can do all those things for free right now, and people without generally can't use a segway.

    Can your fully functional legs carry you 12 mph for 5 miles?

    The self-balance thing is what makes it different from the typical scooter that has a much larger footprint and turning radius, requires active balance by the rider, and generally prevents them from being used by anyone who doesn't have good mobility to begin with.

    I fail to understand the hostility in the responses to Segway. Is it really that threatening to people's sensibility that there might be a real alternative to driving cars on short trips or in places where it is too congested to drive a car. Wasn't it like yesterday that they started charging a usage fee for driving in downtown London? I think it was something like US$8 a day just to enter the busiest part of town in a car, and that doesnt' include parking it once you're there.

    I could be wrong with the figures but wouldn't a Segway pay for itself in a couple years if you could save $8 a day on that one fee alone? ($5000/8=625)
  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:35PM (#5336045) Homepage
    The modern automobile is an unmitigated disaster, one that has buried the earth in asphalt and caused more wars and strife than assassinations ever did. However, corporate America's expectations are also an unmitigated disaster. We have become subjected to a daily hypemachine stuck on some sort of feedback loop that drowns out real conversation. Kamen contributed to that hype immensely with the Segway, which when viewed by a real human is just a scooter. It's a scooter with a few neat tricks, but it's a scooter. "IT" flooded the news when it was leaked, "IT" flooded the news when it was released, and now "IT" is in the news because of the failure of "IT". The extensive newscoverage of the Segway is even reported as news.

    Compared to other alternative forms of transportation, the Segway ranks pretty low. It involves no real user-power, so it isn't particularly healthy. It weighs 80 pounds, so it isn't particularly portable. It involves pretty extensive electronics, so it is impossible to work on. It requires user intervention, so you can't read a book. Compare that to Electric bikes, which have longer ranges, lower weight, can utilize user power, cost nearly one-tenth as much money, and can carry a sizable number of groceries. Or to the subway, which requires a high initial investment and understandable traffic loads, but which can carry hundreds of thousands of people to their destinations faster than automobiles, and free the user to do with their time what they wish. Or motorized scooters, which can travel faster than the segway for much longer distances at about the same cost. Really, the only thing the Segway has over current alternative transportation options is the ability to go backwards. The balancing mechanism at the core keeps the price too high to be a real alternative to anything, but remove that and the entire design is gone.

    The Segway's obvious limitations as transportation are not why people are venomous about it, but people are venomous about hype that doesn't pan out. Look at the backlash against the commercial that hyped the second-to-last Joe Millionaire as if it were the last. Many people spent the last 5 years being taken in by hucksters who believed their own exaggerations, then exaggerated thoes until they believed their exaggerations^2, then exaggerated those... We've had people claim that a way to complain publically about websites would revolutionize human communication, a way of selling dogfood online would make all public shopping spaces obsolete, a system of releasing odors into the air on cue would necessitate the re-purchasing of all human interface displays, and a way of trading low-quality recordings online would revolutionize world law. Dean Kamen's IT falls squarely with the former three examples, as a hype machine that grew monstrously out of control. A market valuation of 650 million dollars? Two-hundred sixty times gross revenue? The yearly salry of 16,320 people? For an expensive electric bike company?

    I don't think most people here are closing the case on this new technology. I think most people here are closing the case on another company that grossly overpromised, tremendously underdelivered, and stood there blankly wondering where their fortune was. If they can redesign the entire internal mechanism to run on inexpensive mechanical principles and low-cost electronics, can get the range AND SPEED up to 30 miles at roadway speeds, and can sell the thing at real stores rather than online, they still would need to readjust their expectations from inherited world domination to working eagerly to satisfy the customer's needs.

    Kamen us all to flock to his new invention like so many lemmings just makes us feel cheap. He should be working his tail off if he wants our money. He contributed greatly to the health of many Americans, but if he wants to break into this new market he needs to drop the entitlement.
  • by BFaucet ( 635036 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:38PM (#5336058) Homepage
    It's a stupid status symbol. So many americans are so fucking obsessed with their image it's not even funny.

    They could have put a more efficient engine in the H2 without a major drop in performance (if any at all), but no... People want to show off they can afford the extra fuel. Of course, having people buy these increases the demand for fuel and drives the price up (it's already high enough IMHO.) This makes a few rich white fellows rich and happy, but also helps make heating oil too expensive for the poor.

    If you must know I drive an '89 Volvo 240 that gets about 20 mpg in the city. I spend $20 a week on gas, so about $1,040 per year (and that's if the price doesn't go up as it already has.) I'm by no means a rich fella (just out of college and paying back loans.) so I can't afford a new car for a while (I want to pay off my student loans before commiting to any new loans)

    If I could, I would buy a civic hybrid (about 40 mpg) I'd pay half of that $1,400... $520 a year... plus a one time $2,000 tax deduction. If the civic lasts for 10 years. that means I'd have saved $7,000.

    Or, I could buy a Honda Insight. 61 mpg in the city means I'd be paying 1/3rd of that $1,040, or about $650 in savings a year (plus the one tme $2000 tax ditty) 10 years would mean $8,500 in savings.

    Now, some freak on CNN is estimating that if America goes to war gas could go up to $5.00 a gallon. I'm guessing that's a bit extreme, so $3.50/gallon is a fair guess. $20 a week at $1.40/gallon means I'm buying 14 gallons o' gas. 14 * 3.50 = 49, so, 49 * 52 weeks in a year = $2,548 a year on gas with my Volvo. or $849 a year with the insight. $1,698 of savings isn't bad at all. Over a 10 year period I'd save $16,980 on gas plus the $2,000. nearly the price of the car ($20,000 with manual trans, AC and stereo.) That'd be like buying the car for $1,020. damn... my Volvo is worth more than that.

    Heh... just calculated savings at $5.00/gallon... $26,270 over 10 years.

    But keep in mind I'm not much of a super self image kinda guy... I don't have fancy rims on my car, I don't dye my hair or dress in crazy clothes, I don't wear logos (what a great idea! pay some rich asshole extra money so you can be his bitch... I mean billboard.) I don't like being ripped off by rich guys who don't need more of my money. My guess is that it's fashionable to buy fuel inefficient veicles because of the amount of cash oil companies are sending car companies who never seem to make a nice looking car that's fuel efficient. Why not? They could use their more efficient engines in SUVs. People don't need a 340 horse power engine in a 3/4 ton Suburban. My Volvo weighs about 1.5 tons and has a 114 horse power engine. It can tow 3,300 lbs and has a gross vehicle weight of 4800 pounds. Typical suburbanites will never need to tow that much.

  • Re:this just in (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:46PM (#5336145)
    "I fail to understand the hostility in the responses to Segway. "

    It looks stupid.
    Its the price of a decent (second hand) car.
    Battery power is ridiculous.
    Large&heavy, so hard to stow away once you get where you`re going.

    "wouldn't a Segway pay for itself in a couple years"

    A couple of years? A lot of people don't intend on keeping their cars that long. This is new tech - you think they`re going to be working in 2 years? Where can you get one - online? So you can't check them out first? How about repairs. Advertising the company might have helped - I'm pretty well read on this sort of thing and i`ve not heard about them. Well, I heard the name.

    Which bit didn't you understand again?
  • Re:this just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Uart ( 29577 ) <feedback&life-liberty-property,com> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:56PM (#5336277) Homepage Journal
    AH, but most of the market with enough expendable income to afford a Segway (upper middle class +) doesn't live in downtown london. They live in the suburbs.

    New Jersey/Long Island/Other Major Suburban Areas have alot more room, and most of the people living there own cars that are more than handy enough for getting here and there.
  • by ( 121677 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @02:00PM (#5336318) Homepage
    Would many companies have some reason to buy Segways? I can't see the senior staff of mine demanding Segways as perks.
  • Re:this just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lawbeefaroni ( 246892 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @02:00PM (#5336321) Homepage
    Can your fully functional legs carry you 12 mph for 5 miles?

    On a bicycle, easily. On foot, at half that speed easily.

    I could be wrong with the figures but wouldn't a Segway pay for itself in a couple years if you could save $8 a day on that one fee alone? ($5000/8=625)

    Or you could buy a really really nice bicycle for half that price (or a really nice one for under 1/5 the price). As an added bonus, you wouldn't be a fat lump looking stupid standing on a self balancing Jetsonesque piece of kitch.
  • by retro128 ( 318602 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @02:10PM (#5336425)
    I've been scratching my head over the same thing. The only thing I can come up with is that it seems that Dean Kamen has a Steve Jobs-type charisma and celebrity status, and everyone knows that half of a journalist's job is celebrity ass-kissing, which is why you haven't heard anyone say "So what?". Everything you see written about Dean Kamen says stuff like "inventor, entrepreneur, all round great guy, blah blah blah", but what it comes down to is that he's trying to sell a scooter for 5 grand that's being outlawed in the very city centers it was intended for in the first place....San Francisco comes to mind.
    Here's why I think the Segway is failing: Those who can afford it and those who would use it are two separate markets. The people who can afford it would tend to be successful professionals who have cars to drive to work and live in suburbia. Are they going to drive their cars to the edge of the city, pull their 80-pound Segway out of the trunk, and cruise to work that way? I think not. Those who would use it would most likely live in the city where they work and would cruise there in a Segway. The problem is that when you are paying $2100/mo for 600 sq ft [], you might want to think about stretching your legs and walking instead of racking up another $5000 bill. Also to consider is the fact that most city dwellings are in highrise buildings...Are you going to haul your Segway up the stairs?
  • Re:this just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PapaZit ( 33585 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @02:20PM (#5336553)
    My legs can carry me at 5mph for hours. If the time difference between segway and walking (~20 minutes) in a 5 mile trip really matters that much, I'll drive.

    This product is perfect for people who:
    -Need to travel 5-10 miles (any less and walking's less hassle and doesn't take much longer)
    -Are in enough of a hurry to use powered transport, but not so much of a hurry that they need to drive.
    -Are solvent enough to plunk down $5k IN ADDITION TO a car
    -Are environmentally conscious enough to bother using this instead of a car
    -Live in a flat area (hilly neighborhoods drastically cut battery life)
    -Live in an area that doesn't have regular rain or snow
    -Live in an area with either wide streets or well-maintained sidewalks
    -Can do their travelling in the daytime
    -Live in an area without a decent public transportation system
    -Lives in and travels to areas that provide a safe place to park a segway

    Here in Pittsburgh, there are hills, it rains a lot, it gets dark early this time of year, the roads are narrow and the sidewalks are often cracked, we have a good bus system, and the places that are close enough to reach via a segway don't have any good places to park the thing. I could afford one, and I like the concept, but it's just too much hassle.

    If they really want this thing to take off, they'll work with the parking authorities and malls to provide "segway locks" where people can leave their segways while they shop.
  • Re:Goddammit! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @02:34PM (#5336713)
    Come on! We are the ones who should be embracing this! Who's gonna convince Kamen to invent the Segway you really want? You know, the chariot version, that gets 5x the distance, and is 1/5 the price? It cannot get here by itself.

    Now, I understand the "early-adopter" model of sales and everything,and that's fine. That tends to work because early adopters still end up with a product they want, and were willing to pay a premium for the utility and the cache of being first. However, you seem to be suggesting that we should support a product that we don't want so that a company can develop a product that we do want. If I'm going to be Dean Kamen's venture capitalist, I'd like to get more for my money than an 40 kg plastic scooter.
  • Re:Goddammit! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @02:47PM (#5336879)
    Look - the Segway is an attempt to alleviate the total unmitigated disaster that is modern automotive traffic.

    Yes, it just happens to be a really, really lousy attempt.

    There are no quick fixes. Any road infrastructure that is dominated by 1 ton chunks of speeding metal is not going to permit alternative transportation to co-exist; the road and transportation infrastructure itself needs to be fixed. Putting additional chunks of speeding metal onto the sidewalks will only serve to scare away pedestrians even further.

    - "they'll kill people on sidewalks".. amazing, this argument. It's a total non-starter. Anyone on rollerblades or a bike is much more of a danger.

    That's why rollerblades and bikes are not permitted on sidewalks in most places.

    I'm sorry for the rant, but frankly the blank-faced pessimism disgusts me. Where is your sense of wonder, Slashdot? Don't be like those fucking lemmings who close the case on new technology before it's even been tried.

    I don't want these overpriced things taking over the sidewalks. It's bad enough that cars have taken over the roads.

    We already know what to do about cars and how to improve transportation: create pedestrian zones, create bicycle lanes, improve public transportation, and improve train service. When there is decent coverage by quality public transportation, people use it. In most places in the US, your choice is a dirty, rickety bus that goes roughly from where you aren't to roughly where you don't want to go. No wonder people stick with the car. And no gadget is going to fix that.

  • Re:Read about 'em (Score:3, Insightful)

    by beaverfever ( 584714 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @02:52PM (#5336947) Homepage
    "He'd lose more weight and save even more money if he biked."

    He'd definitely lose more weight, but as for the money (and time), it wouldn't be as clear-cut as you suppose. It would depend greatly on the practical lifespan of a segway, which I suppose is still an unknown, and the cost of charging it, which, from what I have read, isn't too much.

    Commuting by bicycle over a medium/long distance gets you to a point where you'd probably want a higher quality bike, some decent riding clothes (they do make a difference), and a means to clean up before getting into the office (showering in a nearby gym, if there is one, for example), and then there's regular maintenance to the bike, all of which add to the cost.

    Also, I'm willing to bet money that most office buildings wouldn't have a problem with someone bringing a segway into their office, but for some reason it is a sin against a higher god to bring a bicycle into many buildings, so having a secure place to keep a bike when commuting is an issue.

    Not that I think riding a bike is a bad idea; I did it almost every day when I lived in california, 1:10 each way, and I loved it (driving, with traffic, bridge tolls etc. took about :45). It wasn't uncommon to not touch my car a week or two at a time. However, the weather in california is very predictable and not a concern for bike commuters. I'll admit that living in the pacific northwest has made me less enthusiastic about riding that much every day.

    Right now (once I find a decent job!) I would definitely consider a segway as a 'second car' for myself and the gfriend, as the fella with the site did. I can't see it being good for long distances, but short/medium, it would be perfect.

  • Re:Goddammit! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @03:08PM (#5337106) Homepage Journal
    Segway is not a bike, it cannot be compared to any self-powered vehicle.

    Bullshit. You cannot compare the redness or an apple to the redness of an orange in a favorable way. But as a piece of fruit or as a snack, the two can be compared. Similarly, as a 'revolutionary transportation device', the Segway can be compared quite easily to just about any powered or unpowered vehicle that I, the parent, and many others have mentioned.

    it is the first of its kind and while it has problems for sure, it should be improved, not scorned.

    Without criticism, how can it improve? If Kamen knew it could be better, why not make it better in the first go round?

    I can't remember from your other postings, but do you have one of these scooters now? If not, why not? If so, how do you address family transportation, trips longer than about 10 miles, etc? The best I can see is that the Segway may be an accessory to much of the population, but again, the bicycle, scooter (like a Riva), motorcycle, or the foot is probably a better value proposition.
  • by crazyphilman ( 609923 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @03:15PM (#5337181) Journal
    1. Rollerblades are easier, work better, are more maneuverable, and a Lot Cheaper.

    2. Bicycles go just as fast and have an effectively infinite range with no recharge necessary (except for that stop at the pub). And, are cheaper.

    3. Skateboards can probably go just as fast, are just as maneuverable, don't have to be recharged... Etc.

    4. People have had all of the above cheaper, better alternatives to the Segway, but they don't use them because they're dangerous to put in the street and are illegal to use on the sidewalk. Mainly because of the danger to pedestrians. Which is why the Segway won't be legal for sidewalk use either.

    Result: The segway doesn't stand a chance. How could it? Can't put it in the road (you'll be roadkill), can't ride it on the sidewalk (you're just as dangerous to pedestrians as an inline skater)...

    Kind of makes you wonder how much thought they put into this weirdo pogo-stick-looking thing. Are all the people in startup companies yes men? Did no one speak up and say, "Yes, but if they make riding things on sidewalks legal, can't I use my bike or rollerblades?"

    Tsk. Rich people are crazy.

  • Re:this just in (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gojira Shipi-Taro ( 465802 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @03:41PM (#5337418) Homepage
    When arriving at the office sweaty isnt' an option, neither is a bike, I'm afraid.

    Just a thought.
  • Re:I think we all (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bboombotz ( 646026 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @03:46PM (#5337469) Homepage
    All I know is when I saw the actual product, after all the hype, I just kinda stood there and thought... ok, what's the big deal.
    So did all my co-workers.
    Needless to say, I am not at all shocked that they are not doing that well. I dunno about the rest of you, but I cannot afford 5 grand for a powered wheely machine... and if I did have that much money laying around, that would be the last thing I would purchase.
  • by DrRobert ( 179090 ) <> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @04:04PM (#5337662) Homepage
    There is no doubt that the many urban problems you cite exist and we need to solve them, however the urban changes that would make the Segway even remotely useful (combined residential/business, paths, etc) would also make all other common forms of transportation equally useful. Any city designed to accomodate a Segway would probably be better suited to a bicycle (smaller, greater range, more flexible). A little planning on the part of individuals would also help... if you don't want to spend 2+ hours in traffic, plan your work and residence so that you don't have to... The Segway is simply unrelated to urban problems. I already have the better Segway... a Litespeed bicycle... of course it costs about the same :(
  • Re:Fills a need... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by joggle ( 594025 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @04:07PM (#5337687) Homepage Journal
    I agree that I'm fortunate to live here and that it isn't possible for everyone to bike to work if they like. However, in most cities where cars rule (like LA or Houston), I can't even imagine people using Segways (unless they want to take them to Park 'n Rides and use the very inefficient bus system). Even if you were to take it to the bus, what then? A typical road bike can weigh less than 30 lbs so it's easy to put on a rack. But an 80 lb Segway?

    As far as comparing Segways to my (old) Saab, all I meant was to compare the price between a functional (and very useful) car to this not-so-useful gadget. Honestly, if I want to go on a trip up to, say, 10 miles I'll bike (or maybe bike-bus), unless I'm grocery shopping in which case I'll drive. I really don't see the use of a $5000 vehicle which only goes a few miles at 11 mph and doesn't allow for me to carry anthing but a backpack.

    I really hate dissing this invention as it's really a clever design (also, many people in the past have had great doubts about the "next great thing" such as airplanes and cars and I'd hate to be included in that group). But I just have a really hard time imagining that this Segway really will be the next great mode of transportation. Now if it had twice the range and speed and/or at least could carry some cargo, then it might be a different story. But given the slow progress of battery developments, I'm sure that would be years away.

  • Re:this just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slam smith ( 61863 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @04:07PM (#5337691) Homepage
    I personally think it's cool, just not $5000 dollars worth of cool. I'd start considering one if it ever got to $300-$500 dollar range. About the cost of a decent bicycle.
  • Damn it, stupid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @04:09PM (#5337705)
    On a bicycle, easily. On foot, at half that speed easily.
    Wow congrats! You are more physically fit than most Americans, and you are not handicapped or injured in any way.

    I'll give you a tip. You don't "win" the argument by proving that you don't feel any need for a segway. The person is not claiming everyone should need or want one. They are saying it has legitimate uses for people, and the hostility towards this possiblity is really unnecessary.
    As an added bonus, you wouldn't be a fat lump looking stupid standing on a self balancing Jetsonesque piece of kitch.
    I'm sure bicycles looked silly when they first were starting to be used. I know cars did... and at the time they were considered redundant and only for the wasteful rich.
  • Re:Fills a need... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by charon_on_acheron ( 519983 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @04:17PM (#5337793) Homepage
    "Biking: In the US, bicycles are required to remain on the streets. Probably 95% of bike riders will not venture onto the typical American suburban thoroughfare, which in most cases is the only route between home and work."

    So people are afraid to ride a bike on the busy roads, yet you think they should have no problem with the segway, with is a lot wider, less maneuverable, and much slower. Please explain that logic.
  • by phamlen ( 304054 ) <> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @05:24PM (#5338497) Homepage
    I admit that I'm looking at this from a NY perspective but...

    How do you lock the dang things? Can someone just hop on your Segway and drive off? Even if you lock it, can't someone (according to the article) "just lift it into a truck"? And if you got a bicycle lock, where would you attach it?

    Considering that, in NYC, most delivery people carry heavy chains and locks and drive beat-up bikes so no one steals them, I can't imagine that the lifespan of a Segway on the New York City streets would be much more than 5 minutes.

    "Hey, guys! Come down and see my cool Segway. Hey, where did it go??!!!"
  • Re:Goddammit! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @05:47PM (#5338693) Journal
    Also, why are you calling me "white man"?

    "Tonto, we're surrounded by Indians!"

    "What do you mean 'we', white man?"

    We seem to be agreeing so vehemently that we've started an argument. I hate it when that happens.
  • by irix ( 22687 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @05:58PM (#5338828) Journal

    recently on Car and Driver Television (on TNN?) they did a comparison of the H2 vs. the Hummer

    Don't buy too much into shows like "Car & Driver television" (do they ever give a car a bad review?).

    The conclusion was the H2 provided 80% of the capability of the Hummer

    The H2 has nothing in common with the H1 besides the name, and the H2 is based off of the Tahoe. No wide wheel base, run-flat capability, engine snorkel. Plastic bumper bits and body cladding. Heck, even a locking rear differential is optional on the H2.

    at 50% of the price.. with much more comfort.

    No argument there. The H2 is a "luxury SUV" with heated leather seats, sunroof, etc. - something the H1 never claimed to be.

    The Hummer folks kept a very close eye on GM to make sure they weren't tarnishing their name.

    I call BS here. GM purchased the naming rights from AM General. They took a Tahoe and made the body look as much like the H1 as possible - even fake air intakes and fake lift hooks. Expect to see more of this in the future - the public assoicates the "Hummer" with a quasi-exotic military vehicle. Now that GM has the name they can re-body existing vehicles and call them a "Hummer", hoping to market them on the name recognition. Which is exactly what they have done with the H2.

  • Re:this just in (Score:3, Insightful)

    by raju1kabir ( 251972 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @06:59PM (#5339365) Homepage
    You would have to be the Incredible Hulk to switch the batteries, and you would be taking the risk that you get some beat to hell batteries back, sorta like those propane tank exchange services. All the tanks in the lockers are beat to hell, and doing the exchange costs 2-3 times of just going to get the tank refilled. I think you would find the same problem with the battery exchange idea

    I don't think it's that impractical. A loading mechanism could be built that quickly inserts and removes the batteries. And with a credit card deposit or whatever you could "guarantee" that the batteries you traded in were in good working order - I am sure that the charging mechanism could detect that somehow before they were handed out to the next customer.

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.