Happy Birthday to the Segway

January 11th, 2012

What do you think of when you hear the name Segway? If you’re like many around, “tech failure” pops into your head. Dean Kamen’s creation of the Segway PT scooter was expected to reinvent personal transportation. The Segway was meant to usher in a new era of errand running and puttering around town.

That hasn’t happened. However, Segways are still around. In fact, Segway celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011, and it’s not entirely rare to see the devices zipping along downtown sidewalks. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a tech “failure.”

Let’s talk about how the Segway really works though.

Powering the Segway

The Segway PT is powered by electric motors.  Those motors are fueled by a number of lithium-ion batteries that are easily charged by a standard household electrical socket. Five gyroscopic sensors, two tilt sensors, and two computers with specialty software keep the Segway from tipping over.

Making the Segway Move

The user plays the largest role in making the Segway move. By simply shifting your weight in the direction you wish to go and moving the handlebars a little, the Segway’s sensors identify the modification in balance point and react accordingly. The most up-to-date version of the Segway features a top speed of 12.5 MPH. For obvious reason, it performs best on flat surfaces.

Lowered Expectations

The buzz was pretty big around the Segway when it was initially introduced, but it never quite lived up to it all.  Some even predicted that the Segway would be more popular than the Internet as a whole!

In the 10 years since its release, the Segway hasn’t completely failed, but its strange look and goofy riding style has made it nearly impossible to achieve its expected level of success.


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