Off balance: Police Segways faulty, says maker

Posted on October 4, 2003 
Filed Under Julian, The New Paper

By Julian Matthews

04 October 2003

YES, they need fixing, and someone’s on the way to do it.

Self-balancing scooter company Segway LLC is flying in technicians to fix the Singapore Police Force’s four faulty Segway Human Transporters (HTs).

The Singapore police confirmed yesterday that the machines they bought for US$20,600 ($35,500) for trials in June - and seen in Changi airport - were among the models affected by a global recall announced last week.

Said police spokesman ASP Stanley Norbert: ‘Technicians from Segway will be arriving in Singapore within a fortnight to upgrade the machines’ software.’

He added that there was no incident of officers falling off the two-wheeled, motorised machines due to low battery levels during the trials.

Segway, together with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, recalled 6,000 of the machines after receiving three reports of falls. One rider sustained a head injury which required stitches.

The company suggested the HT could tip over when riders continued to ride despite receiving a low-battery alert.

The recall involved all Segway HT i167 (i series) models, all p133 (p series) models sold to consumers, and all e167 (e series) sold to commercial users.

The Singapore police bought two units of the i series at about US$4,800 each and two units of the e series for about US$5,500 each.

ASP Norbert said the trials for the machines ended in August and its continued use for police operations was ‘under review’.

It could not be immediately determined whether any Singaporeans had bought the machines directly from e-tailer Amazon.

Affected purchasers can refer to the link recalls.justia.com cpsc-content-03- 03553.html for further information.

GINGER HYPE

The Segway HT, which was codenamed Ginger, was created and developed by inventor Dean Kamen.

It was hyped for two years as ‘revolutionary’ by the likes of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Silicon Valley’s high-profile venture capitalist John Doerr.

That was before Amazon started taking orders for it in November 2002.

Manufactured in Bedford, New Hampshire, the single-rider, battery-powered scooter has a top speed of 20kmh.

Gyroscopes and tilt sensors give the machine ‘dynamic stabilisation’, allowing it to move forward or backward with ease according to rider’s slight leaning.

Early adopters of the machines included police personnel, postal workers and delivery staff.

DISMAL SALES

Sales of the Segway, however, have been less than stellar.

A backlash from some city councils around the world - worried about its safety to pedestrians - have slowed its uptake.

The vehicles have been reportedly banned in Hong Kong and San Francisco.

Most recently, US President George Bush was the subject of ridicule when he was photographed falling off the Segway, with pictures appearing on the Internet and in the world press.

Published in The New Paper, Oct 4, 2003.
The writer is an independent Malaysia-based technology correspondent.

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