Hoveround Users of The World, Unite!

I doubt that General Motors executives ever, in their wildest dreams, imagined that one day their chief competitor might be The Scooter Store:

General Motors Corp. is teaming with Segway Inc., maker of the upright, self-balancing scooters, to build a new type of two-wheeled vehicle designed to move easily through congested urban streets.

The machine, which GM says it aims to develop by 2012, would run on batteries and use wireless technology to avoid traffic backups and navigate cities.

[…]

GM has slashed product-development programs, advertising and spending on auto-show events. But it will take to the streets of Manhattan on Tuesday to show off a prototype of the vehicle, called PUMA, for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility.

The Segway Personal Transporter was launched with considerable hype eight years ago but practical issues prevented the scooter from becoming a mass-market product, including its relatively high cost and restrictions on its use in many jurisdictions.

More info, and more photos, are available here from Scientific American.

Seriously — and I really mean this — who besides the Shriners is going to be interested in these things? Again we have another “car of the future” that holds two small adults maximum, provides no climate control (although this one at least has a roof) and has no cargo capacity. A 35 mile range might be useful if you live, shop, and work downtown in a major metropolitan area, but 1) most of those areas are already served by sufficient public transportation, and 2) 35 miles wouldn’t even cover one afternoon of errand-running in most sprawled American cities — not to mention the fact that you’d be driving around at 30 mph, tops.

And the brilliance of GM partnering with a company whose flagship product was an over-engineered toy that failed as a mass-market vehicle because of “practical issues” just leaves me speechless. Mall cops should be happy, though. At least now they will be able to sit down … oh wait, they already have golf carts for that. Never mind.

Once upon a time, Americans used to dream big. The future we envisioned was one of better things: faster, more efficient, more powerful, and aesthetically stunning. It was not a future of “small electric cars and windmills,” as Daniel Henninger tersely described it.

Oh well … welcome to the future of “hope and change,” I guess.

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On second thought, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a GM / Shriners partnership sometime in the near future.

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The old bait and switch, again
We Are So Screwed
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