My Opinions on Segway


I am a former member of the now defunct PNTA. I was on the team from 95-98. If you do remember me, it is probably from early spring when several of my former teammates were promoting organ donation because of my need for a transplant. As you have probably now concluded, I received my heart and lungs, and lived through the operation. Thank you to everyone for your support.

Being a lover of science, and a lover of FIRST, since the first mention of IT I have been researching and theorizing. I have looked forward to being able to see the next revolution in science; for instance, words cannot express how exciting it has been to experience the PC industry’s growth. I was hoping to do the same with IT.

After last night’s leak from Time, the feeling is very anticlimactic. I went to bed disappointed, now thinking about the claims that had been made by several influential individuals (we’ve all heard them), and their validity.

It has come to the point where I must vent my opinions, and the Chief Delphi forum seemed to be the most appropriate place. I apologize if this doesnt belong here.

Data is based on these two sources:

I feel that the GMA article is most likely accurate. The scooter link was the first link I got from Google on a search of electric scooter. I did not search at lengths to find a high performance scooter.

Comparing the Segway vs the Z Rider, we can see that their performance specifications are similar. This seems realisitic considering that the Segway does not have any mentioned innovations in battery or electric motor technology. Despite the Segway weighing 25lbs more at 65lbs, it has a range of 15 miles, 2 more than the Z Rider’s 13. The Z Rider is capable of acheiving faster speeds, 18mph, 150% of the Segway’s 12mph. No substantial differences.

Ergonomically, the Z Rider has a seat, whereas the Segway does not. Both have handlebars required for turning.

There is no mention of a reverse mode on the Z Rider. There are no brakes on the Segway, I have no data on the stopping distances for either. Neither can go up stairs.

The main product differentiation is the Segway’s throttle mechanism which senses how the rider is leaning. It has been advertised as being self balancing because of this feature, however, there is no side to side equalization, just forward and backward. One can assume that rider skill is necessary when taking a turn. The Z Rider does not have a self balancing feature, however, because of its conventional scooter design, the scooter will not fall forward or backwards. It may fall to the sides. A traditional solution to this problem may be a “training wheels” approach.

The Z Rider costs $280 shipped, less than 1/10th of the estimated price of a $3000 Segway.

IT’s innovation and advantage lies entirely in the gyroscope based balancing/throttle system. I fear that this technology will do the same for electric scooters, as the Nintendo Power Glove and Game Pad did for video gaming. If the Segway requires input from the rider’s hands (for turning), it would not impose upon the driver to have throttle input on those same handlebars. I am assuming this is the way the Z Rider works.

I cannot find any reason to buy the Segway over the Z Rider. Not that I would buy either regardless. I look forward to hearing others opinions.

For the past year I’ve been assuring my fellow techheads “Its not a glorified scooter, Dean would make something more important than that. This will be revolutionary”. I’m saddened to find out that its a scooter.

And I’m not even sure about the glorified part…

Thanks for reading,
Kurt Giessler

P.S. Hi Joe.


It could not live up to the hype some gave. But… …it could be more than you give it credit for.

I am thinking that there are many uses for this system that go very far beyond what a typical scooter can do.

There are a number of subtle features of the Segway that are likely to allow it to gain consumer usage that a typical scooter will never gain.

Time & the market will tell.

Joe J.

P.S. It is great to hear from again on the forums. Glad to hear you are doing well. JJ

Correction please Kurt,

PNTA, the Pilgrim Nuclear/Plymouth North Technology Alliance is decidedly not defunct.

This high school engineering organization was founded to provide kids with real engineering challenges…and PNTA has been doing this uninterrupted since it’s inception in the Fall of 1994.

I invite interested parties to visit our website to learn about what we are doing…apologies in advance for any incomplete links…our web site is a testing/learning platform for students and as such is NEVER finished…The site like everything else we do is a learning tool for kids and adults too!

Since 1994 we have designed and constructed 16 “Scratch built” robots of 60 lbs or more and an Electrathon car.

5 FIRST bot’s
1 Electrathon electric Racing Car
4 BattleBots
6 Concept bot’s
1 Under Sea ROV ( a joint project with Benthos Corp. It’s on the web site.)

We are proud of the electrical and mechanical design and manufacturing skills our students have developed…Most are attracted to our program because of the projects we choose, but the students remain because of the camaraderie and high achievement we expect as the price of participation…

We are dedicated only to learning and doing engineering, and we remain “Agnostic” in our approach to programs, technology and specific vendors. Our projects are managed by teachers, but executed by students. We are sort of like an athletic club for engineering, we don’t care as much about what you design and build, or particulalrly how you do it, as much as that you ARE DOING IT. If you like Tennis, Ping Pong or Gymnastics…fine. If you like Wrestling, Hockey, Boxing or Rugby that’s cool too…the fact that you are exercising, not driving around in a car or watching TV with a bowl of potato chips is what’s important…We justr want avenues for quality involvement in learning and doing…

Students produce the working drawings, program the control systems, and service the bots…and everything else that goes into organizing and maintaining an engineering team.

Since we are able to campaign multiple projects that are used twice a year or more…we have the opportunity for “Many Hands” to be and stay involved in more than just fundraising. (And we have to do a lot of that too)

If the project is not completed on the very strict deadlines, and to an acceptable standard, then that team simply forfeits the opportunity to” play" for that competition…better luck next time…Real lessons for a real world, and all student centered. Kind of like working on the farm back in the day…very Darwinian.

There are many ways, many paths that allow each of us to reach the very worthwhile educational objectives we all know and appreciate…

The PNTA organization is fortunate and grateful to have the talent and energy to try several of them…and yes it’s just as tough, just as exciting and just as worthwhile as FIRST…no better…and of course no worse…

While it’s possible to corner the market on prescription drugs (Viagra) and fantastic Gizmos (Segway)…

Nobody has THE market on making people smarter, better or more capable…and each of us decides for themselves the paths they take to self fulfillment and self actualization…This is what PNTA tryst to offer…choice and selection in the paths to knowing and doing. After all there are many “Sports” in the Olympics of Smarts.

By way of example, please try this: Follow the link below and scroll to the very bottom of the page…Those are PNTA uniforms and we hope the sound bite is familiar and that the universal message of all engineering competitions rings clear.

To those old time FIRSTers who might remember the PNTA team…we hope you have a very merry Christmas, we hope you have an exciting FIRST season and we applaud you for the effort and work you put into your jobs, your class work, your families and your efforts to birth the new sport of mechanized competitions…of all kinds!


A post above tried to compare the new Segway to another electric scooter. I don’t think this is a good comparison because the Segway is not just another scooter.

Nick mentioned in a post on a different thread that wheeled transportation devices are not allowed on sidewalks in most cities. This applies to all “scooters” built to date. There are reasons for this. The main two are:

  1. most wheeled transportation devices occupy more space than a pedestrian. On a crowded sidewalk, this is unacceptable.

  2. All wheels transportation devices prior to now require a finite (and relatively large) turning radius. On a crowded sidewalk, this is unacceptable for safety reasons.

(other reasons are stopping ability, but I don’t know anything about Segway’s stopping ability, but stopping ability and turning ability are intertwined.)

The Segway solves the two big problems mentioned above. It takes up no more space on a sidewalk than a normal person standing. It also turns with zero radius, just like a person standing or walking.

A big thing to note is that just because the law is one way today, doesn’t mean it can’t change tomorrow. What I see happening is the Dean and his company will visit many large municipalities to show that the Segway is safe to be around pedestrians. Then, an exemption can be made to the law for the Segway. This is one of the big things that will set the Segway apart from ordinary scooters.

Mike (Mr. B),

It is indeed good to hear form such a distinguished “Elder of the Ozone”.

It’s also good to hear that your team is thriving so well (I love the sub!) as I know you guys had hit some rough spots a few years ago.

Happy holidays to you and yours and best of luck in where ever your journey leads…

Sorry Mr. B, when I wrote that I was putting myself into the mindstate of the FIRST participants.

It is true that PNTA is still an active body…and in addition it seems that since the time of departure from FIRST, its technology, amount that students learn, fields covered, and student accomplishment have all increased.

Now more data on Segway vs Scooter.

Segway’s footprint according to 19x25: 475sq inches.

Z Rider’s footprint: 39.4x7.3: 287.62. This is 61% of Segway’s. An argument can be made that a squarer shape is more convenient than a rectangular one, but in terms of sidewalk space taken up, the Z Rider takes up far less.

The Segway’s turning room: 32" (its diagonal footprint)
The Z Rider’s turning room: Impossible to calculate with data, but clearly significantly larger.

It is true that the Segway’s side-by-side wheeling does provide an advantage in terms of turning room. I don’t believe that Dean has a patent on that though. I think if the Segway does become popular (or maybe even if not), we will see three wheeled copy cats that achieve a similar turning radius and expect the user to provide balancing against acceleration. The 3 wheeled design was a popular practice (concept) robot design at PNTA, and I remember most of us being able to stand on them while moving, despite the very highly levels of acceleration and speed we designed into them.

As for the legalities of Segway, the reasons that scooter’s are not allowed on sidewalks does not deal with footprint (which should be clear from the above data) or turning radius. It is a matter of speed and momentum, and the dangers of getting hit by a device under power. It is for similar reasons that skateboards and rollerblades are not allowed on sidewalks in many areas.

Segway will never receive an exemption from such laws. Either the law will be taken away, or the Segway will not be allowed. The antitrust implications of an exemption would be enormous. Regardless, I wonder what leads you to believe the Segway is safer around pedestriations.

A friend of mine brought up an interesting question to me: If I was given and forced to ride either a Z Rider or a Segway, which would I choose? The Segway clearly. He then continued to iterate what I have said about Segway having no clear mechanical advantages over a scooter, which should mean no clear cost differences. All of Segway’s cost is represented in processing and sensing, two things which generally decrease significantly in price with time. A comparison of the two at the same (or immaterial difference in) price would lead most to choose the Segway. Perhaps the only advantage that a scooter would have over Segway at that point is the weight factor. The Segway is actually 80 pounds according to , a weight that would render it impossible to pick up by many people, including myself. I think it is a sad truth that the Segway will never receive widespread use at such a weight.


P.S. So many views, so few replies…?

Like Joe said, the advantages of Segway are subtle. These subtleties are further hidden with all the hype and “whimsical” expectations; I am totally confident that the Segways and their inevitable knockoffs will be accepted into everyday life within 15 years.

Dean and Co. have solved the REAL problems that previous scooters haven’t even considered–issues that aren’t obvious if you haven’t designed consumer products. I’m just in college, I haven’t really designed consumer products. But I competed in another competition that seems even more “Kamen-esque” called NEDC; it requires high school teams to design a product that solves a given problem–usually a “worthy” problem at that. The key design features they had us consider were widely agreed upon set called the Universal Design Criteria. See this link: .

The Segway beats the normal scooter in every category.

This is important because without all of these traits the product will never gain universal acceptance. Furthermore, while these criteria may not be required for a great deal of us who are mechanically adept and physically coordinated, they are needed for a product that intends to replace the most automated and frequent activity–walking. This, I think, is why traditional scooters are not popular even among us who could use it. Riding a scooter is far more awkward and requires more concentration than riding a bike or walking–can you imagine two people riding in scooters side by side having a real conversation? It was pretty clear in the Good Morning America debut that Segway requires just slightly more concentration than walking; half the debut and interview was done on a Segway after all.

The universality of Segway goes a little further than that too. It’s full name is the Segway HT, HT means Human Transporter. Not just Human-on-sidewalk Transporter. Wherever a human normally travels too on a given day, this can go to and–this is important–fit right in. After the novelty wears off (Segway will always be fun to ride though) this very unassuming device will fit into any environment. I don’t expect that people just ride this to work, but that they ride it during work–from cubicle to cubicle, factory to office, inside to outside, etc.

Widespread use of Segway is neccesary before gov’ts can seriously implement laws and city planning in its favor; the big catch is that each is a prerequisite for the other. So it is going to take a city and culture with foresight to jump into this; my guess is it will definitely not be in the US–probably Japan. I think this is where a lot of people’s criticisims are off-base; look past how much the Segway weighs and costs now and look past the layout of your own city right now. There are lots of viewpoints to evaluate this from; looking towards the future and also looking from the perspective of other cultures and cities is important.

That’s my general arguement, here are some specifics:

-the Segway should never have to be lifted as dead weight (not under normal circumstances.) Ramps can be used for loading into car trunks. It has a “follow mode” that assists in climbing stairs or ramps to minimize physical exertion. When it becomes popular I’m sure it will weigh significantly less than 80 lbs.

-from everything I’ve seen it’s clear the Segway is easier to control than the a scooter at all speeds. Stability in a scooter is difficult at low speeds, so people ride them fast or not at all. I also don’t think Segways will join sidewalk traffic unless they go walking speed.

-I’ll bet the Segway can double that scooters top speed. Well not any old Segway since they have built in limits, but you saw Dean’s reaction when they asked if they had faster models. This is only a matter of how much speed they feel is safe for riding and for the balancing system. Those brushless motors (“tested to 2HP”) at 90% efficiency could beat the drill motors and FPs combined.

-the SLA batteries will have a longer charging period and will last for less cycles than the NiMHs in Segway and the lack of regenerative braking on the scooter will decrease the overall efficiency and range

I kind of used a definitive and preachy tone in this post but that’s only for ease of writing and persuasion; pretend there was a “in my humble opinion” before every sentence because no one is any good at predicting the future and I’m no expert on this stuff.


PS Kurt, I was glad to hear you’re doing better…are you still in CMU? I’m a sophomore Mech. major

Firstly, the personal info. How did you know I went to CMU? I’m not sure if I feel stalked or famous :wink: Either way, I’m returning in January. When I return, I will be a sophomore mech e. Unfortunately, I will not be taking Fluids and Stress with everyone else, as I have not completed Statics. I would love to meet you though, I’ll make sure I look you up when I get there. BTW, my andrew id is ‘keg’.

The design competition sounds interesting, is this a CMU thing? If so, I want in. Did you ever consider joining the FIRST team at CMU? My sister was a member for a year, and I went to one meeting. I never joined because their team (at the time, 98/99)did not follow the philosophies that I had exercised at PNTA. I notice your URL is . Are you part of a CMU based bot, your own bot, or you just like to link to them?

I’ll do my best not to exercise all my arguments here, for I have been promised by others, a comprehensive Segway discussion, (perhaps over a large fry). The only problem is that all of my CMU friends generally agree with me regarding the impact that Segway will have on society. I look forward to someone bringing new thoughts to the table.

Looking at the design link that you give, excluding item #4 (because I feel it is irrelevant to the design of both), I agree with you that Segway is superior to the scooter in all categories.

It is clear to me that Kamen has designed a better scooter…perhaps my comment about “I’m not sure about the glorified part” was made more out of disappointment than logic.

Perhaps the Segway, if cost eventually permits, will replace the scooter as we know it today.

But can it replace walking?

The most convenient part of walking (and infact I believe the only convenience giving it a quick thought, see if you can come up with another), is that when you arrive, your the only thing to arrive. Nothing accompanies you…nothing to store, nothing to deal with. Segway would introduce a substantial problem.

Consider a morning at CMU. 1000+ students (thats only 5 lecture halls worth, I’m giving a gross underestimate) ride their Segway to class in the morning and arrive. There’s no room for them inside the building (any of them), so they must be stored outside. The congestion that would make for is considerable.

The same is true when you go to a movie, a sports game, an amusement park ride, a concert, a bar or restaurant, or any place where people congregate and sit. Segway will only replace walking if it also replaces the chair at the same time (note: this is not impossible to design into Segway, perhaps it will happen).

As far as putting them into a car, consider the fact that a car holds from 4 to 6 people. We are going to have to cars with large trunks to accomodate 4 Segways; and then room for cargo. Also, I think most people would agree, the ability to hop in a car and go is nice…right now we dont have to load our ability to walk in first.

Now I’m thinking, if Segway is not able to replace walking, will society have a use for it?


Good points, I do think storage will be the largest problem. Seems like the best arguement against it.

The NEDC competition was during high school, I was in a program similar to PNTA…maybe not as good though :wink:

The BattleBots thing is by myself and, coincidentally, I lost my first match this summer to one of Mike B.‘s (more accurately, his students’) bot…which is how I knew about you. I’m helping students at a local high school, Fox Chapel, enter BattleBots IQ this spring.

I just emailed the CMU FIRST team. I did last year too and they didn’t reply back until 6 months later,well after the competition.

See ya round this spring, sounds like we may even share some classes.



No appology due from you my man…I just wanted to clarify that the hard work of learning and doing was still being done on the PNTA campus…

If my memory serves me correctly…You, Kurt, were the number one, first student to join PNTA…you have membership card 00001…of this I am certain…you are a two time FIRST driver and a man who has accomplished much and made us proud in many ways…and you are a business associate too.

So no appologies please…

And I really appreciate you and Dan’s in depth analysis…good hard thinking from some bright kids.