Is Segway making a segue into automotive?

Desperate times make for strange bedfellows. Or perhaps this is a case of honest-to-goodness forward thinking. Either way, the alliance between GM and Segway has piqued my interest. On the one hand, you have a major player looking for new niches to play in. On the other hand, you have a niche player looking for a major breakthrough.

Yesterday, the two companies unveiled a prototype PUMA mobility pod — basically, a Segway with two seats and a roof. Picture a two-wheeled golf cart, and you get the idea.

Mind you, this Segway will do more than keep you dry in the rain. According to GM's vice president of R&D, PUMA vehicles could eventually drive themselves and avoid collisions by taking advantage of vehicle-to-vehicle communications, such as those provided by the QNX-based OnStar system. Which means, I assume, that the target market could include people who don't know how to drive. (Not sure how I feel about that one.)

Doubts aside, I hope that this vehicle, and others like it, gain market traction. Because let's face it, most people don't need a 4000-pound behemoth to drive to work. That said, a PUMA couldn't share the road with cement trucks and probably couldn't ride on a lot of existing bike lanes, either. So its success may ultimately depend on whether cities are willing to install the necessary infrastructure.

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