Segway, which boldly claimed its two-wheeled personal transporter would revolutionise the way people get around, is ending production of its namesake vehicle.
The self-balancing, two-wheeled personal light electric vehicle (PLEV) is currently built at a factory in the US state of New Hampshire, but the final example will roll off the production line on 15 July.
Sales of the Segway PT, popular with tourists and police officers, never took off in volume. Segway PT sales accounted for less than 1.5% of the company’s revenue last year.
“Within its first decade, the Segway PT became a staple in security and law enforcement, viewed as an effective and efficient personal vehicle,” said Judy Cai, the Segway president, in a statement, noting that in the past decade it gained popularity with tourists in major cities in North America, Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East.
The transportation revolution that inventor Dean Kamen envisioned when he founded the company in 1999 failed to transpire. The Segway’s original price tag of around $5,000 was a hurdle for many customers. It was also challenging to ride because the rider had to be balanced at a specific angle for the vehicle to move forward. If the rider’s weight shifted too much in any direction, it could easily spin out of control and throw the rider off. As a result, Segway were banned in many cities, and a series of accidents made the news.
“It was probably over-hyped before it was launched, and when it was launched, it was like, this is not going to work on city sidewalks,” comments Maryann Keller, consultant to the automotive sector.
High Profile Accidents
Ten months after buying the company in 2009, British self-made millionaire Jimi Heselden died after the Segway he was riding careened off a 30ft cliff not far from his country estate at Thorp Arch, West Yorkshire. He was 62. The coroner found that he had been attempting to let a dog-walker pass when the incident occurred.
In 2003, George W Bush narrowly avoided injury after tumbling off a Segway at his parents’ summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
A cameraman riding a Segway ran over Usain Bolt in 2015 as the sprinter did a victory lap after winning a 200-meter race in Beijing. Bolt wasn’t injured and later joked about the incident.
What next for the company
In 2015, Segway was purchased by Chinese rival firm Ninebot. The company now produces a variety of different PLEVs — including e-scooters, electric roller skates and go-karts.