Horns blaring, tempers flaring, it seems like gridlock could soon overwhelm our cities. But an unusual project, pairing the mainstream automaker, General Motors, and the edgy, high-tech personal mobility manufacturer, Segway, could offer up an alternative that changes the way we drive in cities.
Dubbed Project PUMA – short for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility – it’s a battery-powered two-seater – but with only two wheels. If that brings to mind a bicycle or motorcycle, think again. Rather than a conventional, tandem layout, PUMA’s passengers ride side-by-side, thanks to the same stabilization system used in Segway’s one-person Personal Transporter.
A prototype of the GM/Segway concept will debut, this week, at the New York International Auto Show, at the Big Apple’s Jacob Javits Center. With the word, “Experimental,” emblazoned across the front, PUMA looks like a cross between a bubble car and a Chinese rickshaw, sans coolie pulling it through the streets.
“Project P.U.M.A. represents a unique solution to moving about and interacting in cities, where more than half of the world’s people live,” said Larry Burns, GM vice president of research and development, and strategic planning.
Like the original Segway, PUMA relies on a unique stabilization system that eliminates the need for two additional wheels. It’s powered by electric motors – in this case, one in each wheel, and powered by an advanced lithium-ion battery pack – with electric steering and braking, as well. But the two-seater takes things several, er, steps further.