January 10, 2005 Segway's Concept Centaur took centre stage today when Michelin announced its new TWEEL combination tyre-wheel. The Tweel was shown fitted to a Segway, an iBOT and Project Centaur, indicating for the first time from the company that the machine dubbed "The Wheelie Machine" has a commercial future. The Centaur is a lightweight, four-wheel concept vehicle combining the company's proprietary gyroscope-based dynamic stabilization technology with advanced propulsion and suspension systems, and an intuitive user interface to create a unique four-wheel device that is easily controllable on two or four wheels. That's right, you'll be able to wheelstand out of sight the first time you ride it. Check out the image gallery for extensive new images added September 2006.
The Centaur uses dynamic stabilization technology to limit and/or maintain the angle the rider chooses.
What would normally be a dangerous manoeuvre on a motorcycle or ATV becomes safe and controlled on the Centaur. In addition, the rider can position his/her body in three different ways, which makes for a fun ride.
This technology also allows for a high-performance design with a short, compact wheelbase - a combination that traditionally can be very difficult to control.
And you can still steer with the front wheels in the air thanks to a clever combination of simultaneous mechanical and drive-by-wire steering that allows smooth transitions between two-wheel and four-wheel operation.
The front two wheels turn left and right mechanically, which is made possible by an innovative linkage system designed by Segway engineers.
The Centaur's advanced control software also allows the rear wheels to turn at different rates in response to data received from the rider's steering direction.
When on two wheels, steering is accomplished in the same manner, by turning the handlebar. Sensors in the vertical portion of the steering column monitor the rider's input and sends a signal to the controller boards, which then issues a command to drive either or both of the rear wheels.
Turning rate is coordinated so that even with the wheels off the ground, Centaur follows the path defined by the front wheel angles.
The lightweight Centaur weighs around 70 kilograms and can be easily transported in the back of a large SUV or small pick-up truck. If developed, its light weight would allow for transport on the back of small cars through a hitch-mounted rack, similar to that used for carrying bicycles.
Top speed for Concept Centaur is currently around 20 miles per hour but with more testing, this could be expected to vary, hopefully upwards.
Interestingly, one of Gizmag's most popular stories in 2003 was the Bombardier Embrio, a similar concept to the Segway, using Segway-type gyroscopic balancing, and ONE wheel!