GM, Segway unveil two-wheeled vehicle | autos | Hindustan Times
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GM, Segway unveil two-wheeled vehicle

General Motors and Segway Inc announced on Tuesday that they are working together to develop a two-wheeled, two-seat electric vehicle designed to be a fast, inexpensive and clean alternative to traditional cars and trucks.

autos Updated: Apr 07, 2009 22:53 IST

A solution to the world’s urban transportation problems could lie in two wheels not four, according to executives for General Motors and Segway Inc. The companies announced on Tuesday that they are working together to develop a two-wheeled, two-seat electric vehicle designed to be a fast inexpensive and clean alternative to traditional cars and trucks.

The Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, or PUMA, project also would involve a vast communications network that would allow vehicles to interact with each other, regulate the flow of traffic and prevent crashes from happening.

“We’re excited about doing more with less,” said Jim Norrod, chief executive of Segway, the New Hampshire-based maker of electric scooters.

The 300-pound (136-kilogram) prototype runs on a lithium-ion battery and uses Segway’s characteristic two-wheel balancing technology, along with dual electric motors. It’s designed to reach speeds of up to 35 miles-per-hour and can run 35 miles (56 kilometers) on a single charge.

The companies did not release a projected cost for the vehicle, but said ideally its total operating cost — including purchase price, insurance, maintenance and fuel — would total between one-fourth and one-third of that of the average traditional vehicle. Larry Burns, GM’s vice-president of research and development, and strategic planning, said the project is part of GM’s effort to remake itself as a purveyor of fuel-efficient vehicles.

Ideally, the vehicles would also be part of a communications network that through the use of transponder and GPS technology would allow them to drive themselves. The vehicles would automatically avoid obstacles such as pedestrians and other cars and therefore never crash, Burns said.

As a result, the PUMA vehicles would not need air bags or other traditional safety devices and include safety belts for “comfort purposes” only. There's no timeline for production, Burns said. The ambitious announcement also comes at a time when GM's future is hanging by a thread after receiving billions of dollars in federal aid and is in the midst of a vast restructuring that could still lead to a filing for bankruptcy protection.