Wednesday, April 08, 2009

GM Segway electric two-wheel vehicle

Segway P.U.M.A. Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility prototypeIt may just be a coincidence, or a sign of desperation, but news reports indicate that GM and Segway have tested a two-wheel prototype electric vehicle the P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility). This looks like it is adapted from the Segway RMP (Robotic Mobility Platform) version of the two wheel personal transporter. This platform has the Segway mechanics and electronics, but has the handlebars replaced with a flat top for carrying a load. It appears seats and a light cover have been added. Also apparent in the media photos, but not on the Segway web site, are four small wheels to stand the vehicle when the motor is off. This looks very much a "wired magazine" publicity stunt not a serious project. Such a vehicle has so many problems and is not going to secure GM's future. There are many better ways to build an electric vehicle and uses for this technology are limtied to applications such as carrying parcels.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Armed Anti-terrorist Segways for Beijing Olympics

China armed police on SegwaysIn what must be one of the more bizarre policing techniques, Chinese police have been reported to be practicing shooting their sub-machine guns while steering a Segway type people transporter with their knees. These appear to be the standard model of Segways, not modified. The company also makes a Segway i2 Police model, with bars over the tires and a carry bag on the handlebars and the x2 Police, with balloon tires for off-road use.
The anti-terrorist forces were also equipped with battery-powered segways, each about a meter high and with two wheels.

The segways allowed the armed police to control direction and speed by changing the gravity center, leaving their hands free to shoot, said Huang Shan, a provincial special force vice head.

"With a speed of up to 20 kilometers per hour, the vehicle helps transport troops and shoot accurately, fast and silently." ...

From: Unmanned drones to serve security forces during Olympics, Xinhua News Agency, 2008-07-03 22:55:45
The ability to steer with no hands would be useful for police, but having to clutch the steering column with your knees would not make for a comfortable ride, or a steady platform to fire a gun from. Perhaps a bicycle type seat needs to be attached to the Segway, to allow the rider to sit down. This could be elegantly added to the Segway's steering column, where it bends about one third the way up.

For less crowded areas, a motor-scooter might be a better idea than a Segway. The Greek police have two people on one scooter (presumably so one can drive and the other take action). These look a little cramped and something like the Piaggio MP3 three-wheeled scooter would have more room and carrying capacity.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Driverless Electric Taxi and Parcel Van?

I have finally found something useful to do with a Segway personal transporter. Here is a half serious proposal for an university research project:

Driverless Electric Taxi and Parcel Van

A Segway personal transporter, or similar small electric vehicle, would be equipped for autonomous operation around a campus. The unit could be used a one person driver-less taxi and equipped with a lockable box for the unattended delivery of packages.

A minimum of mechanical changes would be made to the vehicle. A GPS receiver, small computer and wireless communications would be added to allow the vehicle to automatically steer a set course around the campus and into buildings. A GPS equipped smartphone might provide sufficient computing power. The vehicle could open power operated doors and use lifts. The unit could be summoned from a mobile phone or computer web page.

As the vehicle would be relatively light weight and low speed, there would be limited risk from collisions. Its two wheel format would allow access to narrow corridors. Equipped with bright lights it could be safely used at night.

This would not be the first robot based on a Segway. MIT's Cardea is designed to be able to open ordinary doors:
Cardea Segway based MIT Robot
Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have crossed a robotic arm with the bottom half of a Segway to make a robot named Cardea that can traverse hallways and open doors.

Cardea, named after the Roman goddess of thresholds and door pivots, is the one-armed first prototype of a robot designed to have three arms and the ability to safely interact with humans at eye level. ...
From:Segway robot opens doors, By Eric Smalley and Kimberly Patch, Technology Research News, November 19/26, 2003

The Cardera is built on the Segway RMP (Robotic Mobility Platform). This is a family of specially made Segways designed carry cargo:
Segway RMP (Robotic Mobility Platform)
The Segway RMP (Robotic Mobility Platform) is a new mobile platform based on a Segway Human Transporter (HT). It is faster, cheaper, and can carry a greater payload than existing comparable robotic platforms. DARPA IPTO initiated this effort, with SSC San Diego serving as the technical agent. We provided technical oversight, coordination, and tracking of the conversion by Segway, LLC, of fifteen Segway HT I-series machines into RMPs.
From: Segway RMP, SPAWAR, USN, 29 December 2004.

However, a much simpler approach is possible. The standard model Segway has optional lights and panniers for carrying cargo. This could be equipped with a very modest computer and navigation system to allow it to travel around a defined track on a campus. The vehicle could be restricted to defined bicycle paths and particular corridors in buildings. GPS would be sufficient for outdoor navigation and could be supplemented fort indoor use. Simple sensors designed for burglar alarms could be used to detect a person or object in the path, with the vehicle simply stopping. The vehicle could operate automatic doors by simply moving slowly in sensor range. Lifts could be operated by an interface to the lift computer.

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