As you all may know, I did some stuff for Pixar on the side in the past. There, you have the option of hiring a Segway to help get you around for the day between and within buildings, so it got me thinking, I still can’t find the point of the Segways.
Yes, it feels sort of magical and sci-fi, and if you told me such an invention would exist when I was six years old my eyes would have been wide open in wonder. But after trying it by myself, it felt like a massive overengineering exercise: putting a lot of effort, money and energy into building a big expensive gimmick that could be replaced with a more “lo-fi” approach: cheaper, safer, and incurring in lower maintenance costs (both economy and ecology wise).
I found keeping the balance on the Segway pretty unnatural and unsettling, even before I fell. On a bike, I can always step with my foot on the floor and regain balance, and if things are really bad I can push it away from me and fall sideways, but on the Segway I kept thinking of terrible scenarios: if I fell I would fall on top of it or on my face and break my teeth, or fall backwards and break my back or my head or my elbows or… As you can see, it didn’t inspire me any confidence!
Also: the thing was incredibly slow. I could possibly have walked faster and be less stressed, and able to look at things and the scenery instead of being worried I’d fall if I lost balance for a second.
Finally, the last aspect that bothered me is how inefficient it was. People before me clearly made a few trips around the place before us, and the batteries were already pretty drained. The amount of energy it was expending in driving us very slowly was painful to my ecowarrior heart.
Even if they charged the batteries using renewable sources, it feels such a waste to spend so much energy on a platform that uses that energy to try to be stable but moves along very slowly. It is more efficient and less stressful to walk.
What’s the use case?
It’s hard for me to come up with as a valid use case for these machines. The only semi-acceptable use I can think of is security guards on big closed environments such as airports. All other cases look overengineered and dangerous to me, and could be replaced with “lo-fi” things such as cycles, electric bikes, skates, scooters, tricycles or just plain simple (can you believe it…?) walking, if you can. All these are stable and safe for both driver and surrounding environment.
I admit that I like trying things before I decide if they’re for me. And I can now say I tried a Segway, and didn’t like it.