Tuesday, April 7, 2009

GM and Segway unveil new two-wheeled urban vehicle

GM and Segway unveil new two-wheeled urban vehicle General Motors and Segway working together to develop electric vehicle for urban transport
(Source Yahoo Finance)
Tuesday April 7, 2009, 12:05 am EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- A solution to the world's urban transportation problems could lie in two wheels not four, according to executives for General Motors Corp. and Segway Inc.
The companies announced Tuesday that they are working together to develop a two-wheeled, two-seat electric vehicle designed to be a fast, safe, inexpensive and clean alternative to traditional cars and trucks for cities across the world.
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.
The companies did not release a projected cost for the vehicle, but said ideally its total operating cost -- including purchase price, insurance, maintenance and fuel -- would total between one-fourth and one-third of that of the average traditional vehicle.
Larry Burns, GM's vice president of research and development, and strategic planning, said the project is part of Detroit-based GM's effort to remake itself as a purveyor of fuel-efficient vehicles. If Hummer took GM to the large-vehicle extreme, Burns said, the PUMA takes GM to the other.

Ideally, the vehicles would also be part of a communications network that through the use of transponder and GPS technology would allow them to drive themselves. The vehicles would automatically avoid obstacles such as pedestrians and other cars and therefore never crash, Burns said. Read Article...

Introducing Project P.U.M.A.

Building upon transportation tech expertise
There are some things from Segway that make what we do truly unique. It’s not really like a kit of parts where we sprinkle a little tech here and a little there and end up with something that moves around. Instead, it’s a holistic approach – making sure that you smile whenever you try something from Segway.

Still, there are a few things that we inject in there that are worth calling out:

* Dynamic stabilization: The ability to balance on two wheels and have a true zero turning radius. It gives you incredible maneuverability.
* Electric propulsion: It’s extremely efficient and gives us significant fine control over vehicle dynamics. You also can use regenerative braking to charge back the batteries.
* Smart battery management: We’re one of the world’s largest customers of large format lithium-ion batteries. As such, we’ve become experts about the safe and efficient use of their chemistry.
* Drive-by-wire digital controls: Think about this whole thing as a digital solution to an analog problem. All steering inputs, acceleration, and deceleration are done with zeros and ones instead of levers, cables, and pads.
* Intuitive user interface: Shifting the center of mass of the vehicle controls how fast it goes and how quickly it stops. Check out the video to see it in action.
* Digital dashboard: Data from the vehicle such as speed, battery life, and other information can flow wireless to a handheld device wirelessly. Add in real-time traffic and other connectivity info. and you’ll be armed with enough information to sail through your commute.

Testing out GM's two-wheeled oddball
The carmaker's latest balancing act involves an electric car for urban streets.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Even as General Motors executives are seriously discussing a recently-unthinkable bankruptcy back in Detroit, others were unveiling an equally implausible prototype for a futuristic personal transportation vehicle in New York City.
Believe it or not, the company best known for riding the SUV wave to the brink of collapse now says it is committed to bringing this small, weird-looking contraption to a city near you. I was among the first to get a chance to ride around in GM and Segway's sole prototype vehicle.

First impressions
Getting into the PUMA prototype was a hassle as I wrestled with a complex four-point safety harness that, I assume, will not be on the production vehicle. A technician warned me to gather up the loose ends of my overcoat lest they get caught in the wheel. (In some ways, it reminded of an experience I once had driving a Model T Ford.)
"Close the door" someone yelled and a technician came forward to lower the yellow-and-black safety bar that, for now, passes for a "door."
"Keep your legs loose," the driver warned me.
When in motion, the same sort of automatic balancing technology that holds the Segway personal transporter - commonly called a "scooter" - upright on its two wheels allows the PUMA to do the same with two seated occupants.
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.Read Article...

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