Theodore's World: The GM and Segway PUMA 'car'

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April 08, 2009

The GM and Segway PUMA 'car'

Project P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility), is said to offer fast, safe, inexpensive and clean transport at speeds of up to 35mph.


Is it a rickshaw or a car? GM sees PUMA in the future


Having conquered the world of passenger vehicles, General Motors Corp. showed off its vision of future transportation today that’s either exciting or frightening, depending on whether one cares about driving.

GM and Segway unveiled the Project PUMA, a two-seat rickshaw minus a rick that uses the Segway’s electric systems to glide around on two wheels. Capable of carrying 700 pounds in a frame about half the size of a Smart car, the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) can spin on a pin and “bows” to let passengers in and out.

The PUMA — a name that suggests someone at GM or Segway may be a hard-core Hillary Clinton supporter — can hit 35 miles an hour and travel 35 miles on a charge. The mockup vehicle had no creature comforts beyond seat belts, but GM vice president of research Larry Burns says the PUMA could “fundamentally change how we move around cities.”

GM envisions a real PUMA would be stuffed with electronics for constant communications among other vehicles that would handle much of the driving. GM showed off a video imagining how fully formed PUMAs would work – zipping around streets in perfect single file, using telemetry to avoid crashes, and bodywork that folds open like a mechanical egg, like a mashup of “Transformers” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”

Burns and Segway chief Jim Norrod gave an estimated price tag for a PUMA as one-sixth of what a car costs today. They declined to do the math, but we won’t: call it $4,000. Burns said the PUMA could also turn into a “fashion statement," with custom designs.

“They’re almost lifelike," he said. "The body gestures as it accelerates, and it bows down as it stops…It’s very polite."

Wild Thing's comment.........

It looks like a horseless chariot (think Ben Hur).

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, he said.

A vehicle that can avoid obstacles? So, if a car going 35 crosses the centerline and ends up in you lane, you won't get hit?

Top speed, which means it will never be reached, 35 miles an hour. Top range, 35 miles. It's electric. You plug it in.

....Thank you Mark for sending this to me.

3rd Mar.Div. 1st Battalion 9th Marine Regiment
1/9 Marines aka The Walking Dead
VN 66-67

Posted by Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 06:55 AM


Not for me. There is no protection from the elements. And what if the power goes out while you have it plugged in? This is worse than an electric golf cart! They might be good at places where a lot of walking is needed, like Disneyland, for those who cannot walk long distances, but otherwise, they are a waste of money.

Posted by: Lynn at April 8, 2009 08:06 AM

It don't need the traditional safety devices because if it gets hit anyone inside is 'toast' any way. If the battery dies does it come with pedals ?

How fast can it go from 0-35, in about 4 minutes?

I guess you don't have to worry about buying Hi-octane fuel for it. What a put down for the greatest nation in the world it has come down to this.

Posted by: Mark at April 8, 2009 08:30 AM

Hmmn, I'm reminded of the para who used to live next door, he had two of those electric wheel chairs, I spent many an hour fixing both of them. Of course Mike was an Alky and would head for the bar, take on a snoot full then come flying down the hill home. You could hear that wheelchair whine a quarter mile away as he cheated death by overspeeding the machine. The thing used motor plugging for braking and that activity always smoked the motor's rectifiers. No thanks, I live out in the country, some trucker would squash it like a bug. Looks to me like another desperate blunder from Government Motors.

Posted by: Jack at April 8, 2009 10:30 AM

I'll think about one of these when they paint one black, put armor plate on it and make it the presidential limo. Then I'll still say no.

Would not surprise me if this is all that GM makes now the government will own the company. Obama may then by Executive Order require all Americans to only drive these things.

Posted by: TomR at April 8, 2009 11:58 AM

Can you imagine driving that thing, getting out of work and finding 6 inches of snow on the ground? Have fun driving it home.

Posted by: BobF at April 8, 2009 01:44 PM

Hey Jack, Plug Stopping,...Yeaah... Bwahahahahaha... do you think they use 'Field Weakening' for overdrive that would give the battery a jolt.

Posted by: Mark at April 8, 2009 02:35 PM

No place to make nooky.

Posted by: Odin at April 8, 2009 02:36 PM

they wouldn't be good around here...too many SUVs and big'd get squashed like a bug..

Posted by: Dani at April 8, 2009 03:03 PM

LMAO Mark, they probably do use field weakening for regeneration, but I suspect they were designed for straight and level operation, not a downhill runaway. That wheelchair didn't have friction brakes and used a circuit board oscillator to fire the SCR's for acceleration with the motor's brushes doing the commutation, it did utilize zero volt crossing for smooth starts. I can see a polyphase system being much more efficient even with the converter and cooling, if not they'd be as heavy as a forklift. I can imagine the top end with a series wound motor. Check out this electric :)

Posted by: Jack at April 8, 2009 04:10 PM

Can a COUGAR drive a Puma?

Posted by: Billy Ray at April 8, 2009 04:15 PM

A "car" needs to meet certian functional requirements. 300 mile range, quick refueling, all weather protection, and a certain level of security. Back in the severnties I saw a very nice electric vehicle that was absolutly worthless as a car because green requires had been put on it and the Car requirements were not met. They seem to have pulled out the same requirments sheet small foot print, electrc operation...etc. for this GM product.
First a car needs a high duty cycle. The reason the Gas engines killed electric is that people need to refual quickly. Run this thing on Ultra Capacitors and you could recharge for use in five minutes in Disneyland, prisons and other niche markets configured to use them. If you are running it on batteries the time to recharge will prevent them from ever being useful anywhere not already serviced by electric golf carts.

Posted by: Avitar at April 8, 2009 05:37 PM

Lynn, yes for Disneyland it would be ok giggle
I agree.
Plus how do parents take their kids with them
anyplace. It is not practicle at all and dangerous too.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 06:48 PM

Mark, LMAO hahahahahahahaha
good one

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 06:52 PM

Jack, lol that is funny. I can imagine going down a
hill really fast in one of these.

If it was just for fun these could be good if a
person lived where there were no cars and
electrical outlets along the curbs in case a
person ran out of electricity.

What they should do is use this to get better
ways for real wheelchairs and how to make
them even better. Sometimes from a bad idea
a good one is born. So far this one is a bad idea.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 07:03 PM

Tom, LOL good one.
Me too, I would even want training
wheels on mine if I had one, to keep
from tipping over on a fast turn. haha

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 07:13 PM

Odin, Hahahhaha yesss what about that.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 07:16 PM

BobF., haha I guess they forgot about the
winter weather. This is so funny, it is
totally not practical at all.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 07:20 PM

Dani, good point. The article says it
is very polite. LOL What does that have
to do with being safe. haha

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 07:25 PM

Billy Ray, LOL hahaha

Good one! heh heh

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 07:30 PM

Avitar, reading what you wrote made
me think of that huge mall they have.
Where is it? I think it is in Michigan
or something. Lots of walking in those
huge malls. They could rent these out
to shoppers to use or something.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 8, 2009 07:36 PM

Odin said:

"No place to make nooky.

Doesn't matter; you drive one of those, you aren't gonna get laid anyway.

Posted by: Rick at April 10, 2009 05:44 PM