October 16, 2004 Segway has appointed an exclusive Australian distributor, SegwaySouthernCross which will distribute and market Segway machines in Australia. The Segway Human Transporter was released in April 2002 amid much fanfare and hype generated by the secrecy surrounding the project (aka Project Ginger), the presence of serial entrepreneur and inventor Dean Kamen and the number of high profile luminaries who had invested in the project during the early round private funding. It was seen by many as the future of human transport, a difficult claim to live up to and one which some parts of the media seemed to delight in negatively assessing it against.
Since then, the company has had its share of negative publicity, mainly in association with some US municipalities banning the Segway from footpaths, though the machine's impeccable green credentials (20km range, emission free, recharged from a power point for less than US10 cents) and potential to solve inner city mobility and crowding issues have slowly swung legislators in its favour. More than 80% of American states have enabling legislation in place for the Segway.
All the while, it has been selling machines, starting with the famous Amazon auction of the first Segways which saw Segway number 0001 sell for US $160,000 with the proceeds going to charity.
More than 20,000 Segways have now been sold and with mass production the machine's retail price has dropped to US$4495, making it a far more viable form of transport.
The Segway is a self-balancing, electric-powered personal transportation machine that emulates human balance using sensors, gyroscopes and computers to constantly adjust and balance itself and keep the user stabilized.
Moving by subtle shifts in body weight, it is the first enhancement to personal transportation that fully integrates the user in the pedestrian world.
In Australia, the two Segway models will sell for AU$8,477 and AU$7,799 respectively, and debuted at the 2004 Intelligent Home Show in Melbourne.
Michael Mote of SegwaySouthernCross said the Segway had been well received by the public. "Over the course of the three days we had around 1000 people try the Segway. One couldn't do it, five were uneasy and the rest could all use it within a minute. That has to rate it as the best man-machine interface of any type ever."
The range of the Segway is quoted as up to 20 kilometres and its top speed is 20kmh, but Mote found during the show that the demonstration vehicle showed remarkable longevity on a charge, offering up to 10 hours of continuous usage. Rumours suggest Segway will release a new battery that will significantly extend the range in the not-too-distant future, so any range-limited applications for the machine are quickly becoming viable.
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning