Archive for November, 2010

“Nuns on Segways”

At this time of year you might expect to see Santa on a Segway PT, or perhaps even his Elves (as seen riding through the streets of York this weekend)….

Right here in Auckland city Queen Street will be alive with Segway PTs during tomorrow’s Santa Parade – where a crowd of at least 250,000 are expected to turn out for the big event.

In addition to two ‘Heart of the City’ Ambassadors on PTs, four staff from Crackerjack Promotions on PTs will be ensuring the event runs smoothly. This is the fourth year running that Crackerjack have hire PTs to help make events such as this one run better.

Santa on a Segway is one thing, but here’s a sight you don’t see every day: “Nuns on Segways”

Kiwi artist Joanna Braithwaite produced the fantastic poster below to promote “Back & Beyond & Here” for the Museum of Wellington City & Sea. This exhibition opened last week, and was launched with a street promotion that featured two actors dressed as nuns riding Segway PTs out and about around the streets of Wellington.

This artwork is a fantastic symbol of the Segway PT’s integration into New Zealand urban culture, and Wellington city life in particular. While Segway PT tours first began along Wellington’s waterfront in 2005, here the artist has juxtaposed the old with the new. Isn’t it interesting to observe just how quickly a mode of human transportation can become an iconic thread in today’s society.

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US classifies Segway PT as a mobility device under ADA

In September 2010 the US Federal government specifically classified the Segway Personal Transporter (PT) as a mobility device under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This new rule accommodates “…the growing use of the Segway® PT as a mobility device by returning veterans and others who are using the Segway® PT as their mobility aid of choice.”

The Segway PT has always been legally defined as a type or category of mobility device under enabling legislation in most US states (usually as an “Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device” or EPAMD), and users typically have the same rights as pedestrians. They are permitted to ride on footpaths and in public places and parks like a pedestrian, and in cycle lanes and along urban roads with cars like a bicycle. The Federal government determined in 2001 that the Segway PT would not to be regulated as a motor vehicle, but as a consumer electronics product, and this allowed each individual state to determine an appropriate classification and rules of use. However, this left use of PTs by disabled persons – who’s rights are protected and confirmed by Federal legislation – somewhat unclear.

The Federal regulations of the ADA were last updated prior to the invention of the PT, and certain sections therein gave rise to some uncertainty if a disabled person using a PT had the same rights as a disabled person using a wheelchair. The new rules under the ADA make it clear that disabled persons in wheelchairs, power chairs, mobility scooters and Segway PTs are legally entitled anywhere a pedestrian is allowed, and that premises must make reasonable provision for such access (and may not restrict access, except for a few very limited exceptions).

The Segway PT has proven to be far-and-away the very best mobility device yet devised for tens of thousands of people with a very wide range of mobility impairments – both physical and neurological.

This is of little surprise because the Segway PT was specifically designed to be suitable for this purpose, with this intention identified in the earliest patent applications pertaining to the PT’s technology, and appropriate elements of “Universal Design” built into the product right from the beginning of the development stage.

Prior to his death, the late Jimi Heselden donated 1,000 Segway PTs to Segs4Vets – the US charity that provides PTs to disabled veterans of America’s wars. This charity had previously provided 400 PTs to vets that had been purchased from fundraising. These numbers alone are a prime demonstration of the utility of the Segway PT to persons living with disabilities. It is estimated by Segway NZ that at least 25% of the more than 65,000 Segway PTs sold to date are used by people with mobility impairment. Here in New Zealand the percentage is believed to exceed 35% of the approximately 300 PTs in this country, or about half of all private (ie: non-commercial) owners of PTs.

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Sexy Silver Segway Champions of the Future….and beyond!

The World Dairy Conference was held in Auckland this week, attended by 800 international delegates plus as many again from New Zealand. On the final night a banquet dinner for 1,500 was held at ASB Showgrounds, and the audience were treated to a 45 minute entertainment spectacular featuring a cast of 150: singers, dancers, Maori and Pacific Island performers, a reenactment of Captain Cooks landing, a Hobbit and Gandalf, a run through our great sporting successes, Zorb balls, human Tuatara, a giant (Goodnight) Kiwi, a choir singing Hine E Hine….

….and Champions of the Future represented by three sportsmen in silver lycra suits and flashing eyewear gliding, zooming and darting through the crowd and around the stage on Segway PTs. Segway NZ provided both staff and PTs for this event.

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Cornwall Park’s new Ambassador helps out on a Segway PT

Within the first hour on his first day of a brand new job Rob Ellis – Cornwall Park’s new Ambassador – was providing medical assistance to an injured park visitor. Using a comprehensive First Aid Kit carried aboard the park’s brand new Segway x2 Patroller, he was able to provide help right on the spot. It was an immediate demonstration of the utility that the Segway Patroller delivers best.

Cornwall Park is perhaps Auckland city’s most valuable public recreational asset. Located right in the middle of the isthmus, with the majestic One Tree Hill rising high from its heart, this parkland is a great escape from the sprawling suburbs that surround it on every side. Sheep and cattle roam the extinct volcanic cones and craters, while the busy CBD bustles just a few kilometers away. This landscaped park features plantings of mature trees, walkways and cycleways, open spaces for play and picnics, a grand cafe surrounded by historic buildings, and is home to the Stardome. Cornwall Park is enjoyed by more than four million visitors annually, or an average of well over 10,000 people per day.

The challenge for park management was how best to provide helpful information to the public throughout the park. Experience had shown that people do not like to approach either the private security company that patrols in an SUV nor the groundsmen on quad bikes, tractors and utes.

“It is the noise of the quad bike that keeps people from asking the rider, plus they assume the person on it is too busy to help with their query” says manager Michael Ayrton.

He identified the Segway x2 as the best way to enable an Ambassador to get around the park quickly, quietly, lightly and efficiently. Environmental impact is very low: it is much lighter on the ground than any of the park’s other vehicles (in fact its imprint is lighter than the average person’s footstep when walking); it is battery powered and costs only about 25 cents to recharge each night (when most of NZ’s power comes from hyrdo generation).

“Most importantly, we had a budget to employ one Ambassador, and putting him onto a Segway x2 Patroller means he can help many more people per day. Basically, we get two or three Ambassadors for the price of one, and that has to be good for our visitors. No other vehicle could have done this for us.”

Rob really stands out on the Patroller model. It features large reflective shields, and the park has emblazoned these with AMBASSADOR as well as the park’s crest. Part of the value in having a roving Ambassador is that they are easily identified amongst the visitors. Elevated 20cm higher on the Patroller, Rob is easy to see and even easier to approach. Because the rider is standing upright like someone walking, yet is elevated 20cm higher, they are easy for the public to spot, and even easier to approach.

“People are so curious, they actually come up to me and want to talk, which is really great” says Rob. “That makes such a change from my previous job in security. The Segway x2 makes it easier to do my job, and in turn I can do a better job. I like to leave a really good impression on people, and that enhances their experience of visiting our park.”

There are more benefits of putting an Ambassador onto a Segway x2 Patroller. In addition to First Aid equipment, the Segway x2 Patroller carries free maps and information brochures for Rob to hand out to visitors, as well as free rubbish bags to encourage visitors to keep the park clean. The park is considering adding a lockable side cargo case to increase carrying capacity further, giving the potential to carry a defibrillator and a fire extinguisher.

The Ambassador will operate mainly on weekends and public holidays. At other times, staff from the Visitors Centre will use the Segway x2 to commute the 1km journey to the Administration & Services Building at ASB Showgrounds. This is a typical distance where Segway Personal Transporters really prove their worth. Valuable time is lost out of the working day by walking that far, yet driving is inconvenient and time consuming due to the convoluted route through meandering park roads and multiple intersections, as well as limited car parking at each end-point. Compare walking or driving with a person on the Segway x2 that can take a direct route along walkways and straight across parkland and be there in a couple of minutes. Staff member Nadia Vanderplancke remarked “I didn’t realise the Segway would be so easy to just get on and ride, and I had no idea it could climb such steep hills with ease. It is going to improve our daily productivity no end.”

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EN-V impresses UK’s Auto Express

The EN-V concept car that was created in a joint venture between General Motors and Segway that utilizes the latter’s ‘Smart Motion’ self-balancing technology has continued to attract headlines throughout 2010. Three concept vehicles were on display for six months at Shanghai’s World Expo which closed last month. As the year progressed media coverage became more insightful as journalists gained a deeper understanding of the benefits of dynamic stablization when applied to a small car application. Previously, these benefits were lost on some commentators – in much the same way that many reporters were ignorant of the key advantages of the PT (usually, such views are held only by people who have never experienced half an hour on a Segway PT and discovered its incredible capabilities).

There is a link to an excellent article about why a dynamically stablized city micro-car brings benefits over a four wheeled configuration in the last paragraph of our earlier News post here. Today we bring you two new photos of the EN-V in action during a test drive by UK’s Auto Express. (this article continues below photos)

General Motors sees no end to road with new mobility solutions, according to a recent article in Gulf News:

EN-V, which is short for Electric Networked-Vehicle, maintains the core principle of personal mobility — freedom — while helping remove the motor vehicle from the environmental debate. The EN-V is a two-seat electric vehicle that was designed to alleviate concerns surrounding traffic congestion, parking availability, air quality and affordability for tomorrow’s cities.

“The vehicle needs to be tailored for urban applications,” Borroni-Bird said. “The main thing is connection, meaning that the vehicle operates in a network together with others to reduce congestion and accidents and to make parking easier.”

This need to tailor a vehicle for 21st century urban situations was a primary design principle for Segway engineers when they were developing the Segway PT as a revolution in personal mobility. So it is of little surprise that the defining aspect of the PT – dynamic stabilization – is now beginning to find its way into the design of future city cars.

It is interesting to consider that none of the other personal mobility solutions currently in use were designed to integrate tightly in busy urban environments. Think about that last sentence for a moment. The 19th century bicycle cannot not meet the needs of any but a small percentage (probably less than 10%) of commuters in 21st century cities. The 20th century contenders – small electric tandem-wheeled scooters and mobility scooters – are either fast, unsafe and uncomfortable, or slow, heavy and uncomfortable (primarily as a consequence of the small diameter of their wheels). Both designs are hampered by long wheelbases and poor maneuverability, making them a poor fit in pedestrian spaces.

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