Segway gyroscope: Silicon Sensing keeps PT in balance


UPDATED: 2 January 2013 (see “Segway ‘thumbs-up’ for PinPoint” below)

This little box is a key ingredient in the special sauce that keeps that Segway Personal Transporter (PT) poised upright and self-balancing, as if by magic.

Silicon Sensing makes the gyroscopes used in the Segway PT.

These are not large, physical gyroscopes like you might find on a ship or aeroplane, or as an educational toy. They are micro-electrical-mechanical systems (MEMS), or gyroscopes-on-a-microchip. While relatively rare and expensive when the first Segway PT was revealed in 2001, these days such chips are encountered on a daily basis in iPhones and other smartphones, Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation controllers, etc. As Silicon Sensing notes on their website page dedicated to the work they did with Segway, Inc:

Technically speaking, the Segway design is classic implementation of the ‘inverted pendulum control theory’ – balancing a broomstick on your fingertip is another example of the same thing. But to enable an automatically-balancing system based on this theory demands the availability of sensing, processing and actuation, all of which are fast and accurate enough. And for a commercially-viable product to emerge, this further demands the availability of these technologies at affordable prices, with sufficient robustness and reliability, and being of a suitable size.  The overall system concept demanded that the Segway PT could always continue to balance if a component fails, whilst providing alarms and reversionary action to ensure that the rider is able to dismount safely.

Dean Kamen and his team desired the Segway PT to have triple redundancy in the pitch axis (tilting forward/back), and double-redundancy in the roll and yaw axes (sideways tipping and twisting/rotation). While it is obvious that the Segway PT needs to know about pitching, roll and yaw are important when balancing on a slope.

Silicon Sensing were able to propose and develop an innovative design, to be called the Balance Sensor Assembly, in which the size, reliability and affordability criteria were met through use of our VSG3-based silicon MEMS gyro technology. A key requirement was at least dual redundancy in balance sensing – and the desire for triple redundancy in at least the pitch axis.

The resulting solution is ingenious. Rather than providing dual and triple redundancy on each axis separately, the gyros are set at angles such that, by applying trigonometry to any pair of gyros, it is possible to deduce pure pitch, roll or yaw in more than one way….The solution provides three ways of measuring pitch and two each of measuring yaw and roll. To complete the module, two dual-axis liquid tilt sensors are included which sense the true ‘down’ direction and thus the pitch and roll angles.

First Generation Segway PTs could be made to “get giddy” by deliberately rotating at high speed on the spot until the centripetal motion affected the liquid filled tilt sensors (ie: confusing what way is being sensed to be straight up and down). When the rider stops spinning, the PT “feels a little drunk” for a few moments, before pulling itself together as the liquid filled sensors and solid state gyros work out what you’ve been up to!
ARTICLE UPDATE: 2 January 2013

Silicon Sensing issued the following press release on 12 September 2012:

Segway ‘thumbs-up’ for PinPoint®

After a year of development, and rigorous testing and trials at Segway’s facility in Bedford, New Hampshire (USA), Silicon Sensing’s PinPoint® precision navigation and pointing MEMS gyro has been given a ‘thumbs up’ for use in the Balance Sensor Assembly for Segway’s latest generation of ground breaking self-balancing Personal Transporters (PT).

Silicon Sensing was heavily involved in the original development and manufacture of the BSA for Segway over ten years ago, using its VSG (Vibrating Structure Gyroscope). PinPoint® uses the latest generation of this unique vibrating ring gyro technology and delivers the same high reliability angular rate sensing but in a device which is a tiny fraction of the size, power consumption and cost of the original.

One of the key factors for Segway is the high performance and integrity of the sensors produced by Silicon Sensing. PinPoint® CRM100 is an automotive grade gyro sensor and the technology is used in passenger car navigation, safety and braking systems.

Production deliveries of CRM100 units have already begun.

Free Jaffas – Auckland NOW promotion on Anniversary Weekend

It is a beautiful three days of summer holiday for those parts of New Zealand celebrating Auckland Anniversary Weekend – a public holiday that harks back to the days when the country was divided into provinces.

Out and about as part of the Auckland Buskers Festival is Phenomenon Promotions using two Segway PTs to promote the new Auckland NOW website, which is part of

The promotion calls for Phenomena promo staff to ride the streets of downtown Auckland handing out boxes of free Jaffas (these small spheres of solid dairy milk chocolate covered in orange flavoured icing are a Kiwi favourite). Aucklanders will be enjoying the free chocolate. At the same time, maybe those living in the other provinces around the nation might be chuckling to themselves….as in the local vernacular “Jaffa” also has a meaning that refers somewhat amusingly to people who live in Auckland.

Segway New Zealand offers brand promotion using Segway PTs with promo staff as one of our core services. We launched one of the world’s first Segway Promo teams in 2003, and since then have been part of some striking product launches.

Road Runner vs Coyote on a “Segway” (a prologue?)

One of the most-read articles at Segway NZ News is Road Runner vs Wile E. Coyote on a Segway PT. It mentions the three new 3D episodes released to cinema last year, one of which has Coyote pursuing his feathered foe on something that looks a lot like a Segway i2.

Predating this big screen release by several years, then-student Dane Jones made his own 90 second Road Runner vs Wile E. Coyote video for art class in 2006. Check it out…and be sure to watch to the end!

CORRECTION (2017): The copyright notice suggests this video was made in 2002 (not 2006 as stated above). It was first uploaded to the web in 2006, and the associated discussion is from that year. Learning that the creation date was actually 2002 adds an extra dimension of amusement and context for those who remember that time leading up to the launch of the original Segway PT.

Segway, Inc. celebrates 10 years of ‘Simply Moving’

Segway, Inc. has re-launched its blog, and you can subscribe to their regular postings to keep up to date with the latest information. The current feature signals future expansion and growth, starting with a little history:

In December, 2001 the Segway® Personal Transporter (PT), the world’s first and only electric, two-wheeled, self-balancing transportation device was unveiled on Good Morning America.  In 2002, the PT became available to customers and a remarkable, new transportation alternative was born.

Since that time, Segway has earned a global presence, is well-known as the world’s leading provider of personal, green transportation alternatives and robotics mobility platforms and will be celebrating its 10 year milestone anniversary throughout 2012!  The Company’s flagship product, the PT, continues to be the heart of the business and development of a new model is well underway.

According to The Union Leader, sales are now “close to 100,000 Personal Transporters” and this article summarises a decade of growth in the American, European and Asia/Pacific regions, as well as noting three important markets for Segway products: the Robotic Mobility Platform, Tourism and public safety lead by the Patroller range.

We published our own article 10 Years Ago Today the Segway PT was revealed in December 2011 where technology enthusiasts and historians will find links to fascinating information. Remember, you can also subscribe to Segway NZ News right here on this page so you wont miss out on any of our publishings.

Segway Racing ramps up interest in electric transportation

Segway Racing enjoyed world-beating success during 2011, attracting a whole new level of attention to electric transportation.

Once upon a time electric vehicles meant short range, low speed, heavy weight and poor overall performance compared to petrol engines. And one would never compare an electric vehicle with a highly tuned sports cars or performance motorbike.

Not any more.

Take for example the Tesla Roadster – the world’s first mass market, high performance sports car – 0 to 100 km in a neck-snapping 3.7 seconds – that has a range of about 400km.

Or the Segway Personal Transporter i2 – a machine that delivers almost 40km range per charge from a light, highly manoeuvrable platform that turns on the spot and has a footprint no larger than a person.

And from Segway Racing’s sponsorship of MotoCzysz racing astounding new records were set all around the world during 2011.

Segway’s 2011 Sponsorship of MotoCzysz Racing – A Tremendous Success!

In 2011, Segway Inc. officially became the title sponsor of MotoCzysz Racing. The relationship was new, exciting and focused on winning – while also proactively promoting electric motorsports and personal transportation.

“What a year it has been! We’re thrilled with the performance of the MotoCzysz Racing Team,” said Wayne Mitchell, CEO of Segway Inc.  Michael Czysz, CEO & Founder of MotoCzysz added, “We appreciated Segway’s sponsorship and we look forward to exploring additional opportunities to work together.” 

During this racing season MotoCzysz’s latest model, the E1pc, performed incredibly well on the circuit.  Its design harnesses increased onboard energy, nearly doubling horsepower while simultaneously reducing the bike’s overall weight.  This provided a distinct competitive advantage on the track and translated to podium finishes at some of the world’s most prestigious electric motorcycle races.  The wins, all earned on the same E1pc bike, included:

  • Michael Rutter and Mark Miller securing first and second place respectively 
    in the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) Zero Race.
  • Michael Czysz himself taking second place at the FIM e-Power/TTXGP International Championship Race, which is held in conjunction with the U.S. Red Bull Grand Prix, one of America’s largest motorcycling events.
  • Shane Turpin, riding to a first place finish at the final electric race of the season, the USBA/TTXGP Event at Miller Motorsports Park

“The level of technological innovation that was achieved with MotoCzysz’s E1pc in the past year was a marvel,” commented Mitchell. “Winning these races did wonders to solidify its reputation as the world’s most technologically advanced electric bike.  In addition, it built the market’s interest in electric transportation and that was one of our primary goals in committing to this sponsorship.”  

Check out the video clips at Segway Racing. The seven fastest laps ever recorded by an electric motorcycle have all been achieved by Motozcyz, and you can watch the two fastest online. Also on show are videos of the Segway i2, x2 and Patroller hard at play and work.

Of additional interest is this article about the Isle of Man focusing on the island’s initiatives to become one of the green capitals of the world. This is a place that has had continuous economic growth for the last 20 years and an unemployment rate of just 2%. It is also the oldest continuous democracy in the world, and home to the world’s longest established motorcycle race – the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) that since 2010 includes the TT Zero for zero-emission motorbikes.

CES and Detroit 2012 Motor Show: new EN-V, Spnkix electric roller skates and “million dollar Segway PT”

General Motors has unveiled its 2nd generation EN-V concept at the Detroit 2012 Motor Show. This new shell – built on top of a drivetrain developed at Segway, Inc.’s Bedford, NH factory –  features air conditioning and storage space absent from earlier concepts (and the Segway P.U.M.A prototype on which the EN-V was first based).

In a recent post we said: “Prepare to be astounded, and watch this 3 minute video of three real EN-V prototypes in action plus animation of what more can be done (all with technology that already exists today).” Search our archives for our other coverage on the EN-V and P.U.M.A. (as well as other Segway Advanced Technology initiatives).

At Detroit this year it was interesting to observe is that the motoring press now understands the intrinsic benefits of two-wheeled self-balancing transport are all about. For an industry welded to four wheels for more than a century, this is a milestone. For example:

When had a go in General Motors’ amazing little EN-V last year, we initially thought it had the fairy-dust sheen of a pure concept – brilliantly thought-provoking, a great opportunity for young engineers to strut their stuff and a demonstration that ol’ man GM is getting down with the EV zeitgeist.

[A]fter a drive around a huge exhibition hall, we thought, hang on, this is actually rather smart….[H]ere’s the bit where the story goes all Buck Rogers: GM envisions the city of the future where EN-Vs operate autonomously, where the operator simply enters an address much as you would in a conventional sat-nav, and the vehicle takes you to the destination whilst you sit back and read the paper. The concept extends to V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communication, which means the cars would never collide, traffic flow could be much better managed in real time and cars could even travel in tightly spaced convoys, known as ‘platooning’.


A gold plated Segway PT purported to be worth a million dollars was spied cruising the floor at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week. Also featured at CES was the Solowheel, which you can buy from Segway New Zealand today ($3,595).

Another personal transportation product on show was the Spnkix (or “spin kicks”) – electric roller skates controlled by hand-held remotes. If rings on your fingers and bells on your toes ain’t enough, let us know if you’re a little bit interested in being first in NZ to have a pair of these.

Here’s some great coverage of the Spnkix by BBC (includes video of device in use and an interview with the inventor).

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