The name Segway is synonymous with tech failure. After all, inventor Dean Kamen once thought that his two-wheeled scooters would become a substitute for cars. He pictured a future in which people buzzed to the supermarket, library, or work on their Segway PT scooters.
That hasn’t happened. However, Segways are still around. In fact, Segway celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011, and it is not entirely rare to see the devices zipping along downtown sidewalks. That’s a pretty amazing feat for a tech “failure.”
Let’s talk about how the Segway really works though.
Powering the Segway
Electric motors fueled by phosphate-based lithium batteries power the Segway. The scooters are easily charged by just plugging them into a standard electrical socket. Thanks to a combination of two computers, special software, tilt sensors, and five gyroscopic sensors the Segway stays upright and doesn’t tip over.
Making the Segway Move
The sensors register if the user shifts their body weight to switch the direction and speed of movement. Put simply, when you want to move forward at a quicker pace, you would pull the handlebars closer to your body and lean forward slightly. The Segway’s current top speed is 12.5 mph and is ideal for areas with lots of wide, flat sidewalk space.
The device never did live up to its hype. Many technology specialists predicted that the Segway PT would become a bigger deal than the Internet. Consequently, when company officials unveiled the first Segway scooter in December of 2001 in Manhattan, expectations soared.
Of course, we all know what happened. The Segway looked strange, and people looked strange riding it. That was enough to prevent the Segway from taking off as its promoters anticipated.