Wednesday 22 November 2017

Segway owner's death: factfile on two-wheeled device

Andrew Hough

The Segway is a two wheeled, motorised stand-on device that can be described as a cross between a hand mower and a micro-scooter.

The battery-powered device, which costs around €5900, is recharged by mains electricity and can travel around 18 miles between charges. Despite having no brakes, gears or steering wheel, users can reach a maximum speed of 12.5mph.

The scooters are controlled by the rider leaning forwards or backwards for acceleration and left and right on the handlebar to steer. Gyroscopic sensors are used to detect when it is tilting and motors rotate the wheels to keep the vehicle upright.

The two-wheeled vehicle was billed as a revolution in short-distance transport when it went on sale in 2002 after being unveiled in America the year before by Dean Kamen, a New Hampshire entrepreneur.

Mr Kamen predicted the Segway scooter, which is virtually silent and emission free, would revolutionise transport, being "to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy".

But sales quickly fell far short of targets despite celebrity customers including Dame Helen Mirren, Jackie Chan and Lembit Öpik, the former MP, who has championed its use and even tried to get himself arrested.

The device looked certain to follow the Sinclair C5 and Betamax video players into technological history – a position cemented when President George Bush was seen falling from one in 2003.

Against a target of 40,000 sales a year, the device had sold only 23,000 by the end of 2006.

Then last year its popularity in Britain appeared to take off, with sales up almost 12pc over the first six months.

There are now thought to be 80,000 in use worldwide, many of them by police forces patrolling pedestrian zones, such as parks.

Segway scooters are legal in many European countries including Austria, France, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Portugal and the Czech Republic.

They are also legal in 44 US states with some authorities allowing them to be used in bicycle lanes or on roads with speed limits of up to 25mph.

In July, a Segway driver, Phillip Coates, a 51 year-old factory worker, from Barnsley, South Yorks, became the first ever prosecuted for driving the motorised scooter on the pavement.

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