2009-04-07

GM and the PUMA


GM just announced a partnership with Segway and is now showing a prototype of a two-person, two-wheeled electric vehicle capable of 35 MPH with a range of 35 Miles.

According to the Seattle Times:

The Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, or PUMA, project also would involve a vast communications network that would allow vehicles to interact with each other, regulate the flow of traffic and prevent crashes from happening.

"We're excited about doing more with less," said Jim Norrod, chief executive of Segway, the Bedford, N.H.-based maker of electric scooters. "Less emissions, less dependability on foreign oil and less space."

The 300-pound prototype runs on a lithium-ion battery and uses Segway's characteristic two-wheel balancing technology, along with dual electric motors. It's designed to reach speeds of up to 35 miles-per-hour and can run 35 miles on a single charge.

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A reporter from CNN got to ride in one as a passenger.

During a test ride - for now, only trained drivers are allowed to operate the prototype vehicle - the PUMA transporter felt perfectly stable. Other than the fact that it can rotate while standing in place, it felt similar to riding in a small car at slow speeds.

As he pushed the steering wheel, the vehicle leaned gently forward and trundled off to the end of a blocked off section of Manhattan's West 18th street. When we reached the end of the street, the driver pulled back on the steering wheel and the car stopped, staying balanced on its two wheels. He then turned the wheel rotating the booth-shaped car 180 degrees and off we went in the other direction, steering to avoid hitting our CNN cameraman.

Only when the vehicle prepared to park did it feel a bit unnerving, as the vehicle leaned forward to settle onto its extra set of small front wheels.

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I can't help but wonder if things like this are the reason GM is about to go bankrupt, or if failing to do this kind of things over the past 20 years is why they are on the brink of bankruptcy. It's probably some combination of the two.

This kind of vehicle does sound like it can have a plac3e in the modern transportation infrastructure. The question remains, though, whether the buraucracy of GM is even capable of bringing something like this to market, of it is all just some last ditch PR effort.

9 comments:

j. said...

A vehicle that travels 35 mph without gas? i already have one of those - its a bike. and it helps me lose weight... bet the Puma cant claim that one!

Clearly the incredible success of the Segway (because we all have two or three of them, dont you?) is what GM needs to emulate in order to save itself.

Auntie E said...

Now I like that. Someone to talk to while segwaying.I wonder if it would be hard to drive with the extra weight:-0

Pricilla said...

My husband's comment was,"where do you put the groceries?" Seriously what good is the thing if it only fits people and doesn't have any space to carry anthing. I appreciate the bike comment but for someone disabled like me it would have applications in the city but I live in the middle of nowhere....

storybeader said...

our museum has a segway, but it's for one person... and you stand!

Alan said...

I find the concept intriguing frankly. I agree with Pricilla that they definitely need to make some provision for cargo space, but it does look promising.

Pretsel Maker said...

Car Of The Future. Splendid!!!!!

AVCr8teur said...

This looks like a fun vehicle to drive. If everyone had one, we probably wouldn't have the pollution and gasoline problems.

Cromely said...

@j.: Biking can be an option I suppose, but this seem like it could be about 5% safer because of the size. Living on top of a hill, in rainy weather, i can see the advantage, but GM doing this seems like and Onion story.

@Auntie E: It would be easier to chat there than riding a bicycle.

@Pricilla: Good point. I can see it supplementing a car in a city rather than replacing one. If you don't need the cargo space for every trip (like commuting) it might not be a big issue. It might also be an option for those who already live a car-free lifestyle but need something more.

@storybeader: Have you ridden it? I see them at various trade shows and airports but I've not yet had the opportunity to ride one.

@Alan: It's definitely interesting and adds another option to the transportation infrastructure.

@Pretsel Maker: It will do for now. I'm still hoping for my George Jetson mobile.

@AVCr8teur: True. I don't think something like this could replace all the vehicles though. It seems like it would be a great add on, though, and could have an impact in dense cities.

Carl said...

And this is going to save GM from bankcrupcy indeed.