The Poor Segway

The Segway is a transportation device invented by Dean Kamen. When this thing came out in 2001 I was very excited. I was living in Atlanta, where the roads were completely clogged and everyone knew it was going to get worse.

Seven years later, the Segway has failed to take over the world. Only about 30,000 have been sold. Why? I don't know. But I wanted to talk about a few of my suspicions.

Marketing. In 2001 I showed the promotional video to a friend of mine (I can't find that video online now, but see a similar one below).

Instead of being hopeful and fascinated, she exclaimed with disgust "can't people just walk anymore?" Oh dear. She perceived the Segway not as a car replacement, but as a walking replacement! I was reminded of this in a recent improv show I was in in which a fellow improvisor ranted that you should "get off your fucking Segway and walk!"

I can see that the video encourages this view. It's amazing that the Segway can be used on a street, sidewalk, or even inside your office (removing the need, perhaps, for paying for parking) but what would have been better would have been a shot of hundreds of people on Segways cruising down the street in the sun. Even if it were computer generated, it would have inspired the imagination in a more appropriate way.

Association with Nerds. It was very disheartening to see the Segway prominently featured in Weird Al Yankovic's video for "White and Nerdy."

Legal Trouble. They're not fast enough for the road. They're too fast for the sidewalk, where laws forbid motor vehicles. There are many cities in which you can't drive them on public land.

Unfortunately, it looks like we won't be giving up our cars for Segways. Looking forward to seeing what's next.


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