Today in New York, General Motors and self-balancing scooter maker Segway joined forces to create the PUMA, or Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility vehicle. Here's what you should know about the rickshaw-like prototype.
The PUMA, like the Segway, is a two-wheeled vehicle, balanced by gyroscopes.
PUMA will be powered by rechargeable batteries, and can reach a top speed of 35 miles per hour - nearly three times the speed of the Segway scooter.
This means that in most states the PUMA will not be able to drive on highways, or on any roads with a speed limit higher than 35 miles per hour.
A three-hour charge on the PUMA will cost 35 cents. The battery will allow the PUMA to travel up to 35 miles on a single charge.
PUMAs are intended for city dwellers who need a vehicle for short trips beyond walking distance - though Treehugger points out that we already have a vehicle for this function: a bike. PUMAs aren't intended to hold much more than their human cargo.
GM and Segway hope that the PUMA will reach the market by 2012. Though the price is to be determined, it's estimated that a PUMA will cost one-third to one-fourth of the cost of a traditional vehicle.
The PUMA weighs 600 pounds.
Each vehicle will use OnStar to communicate with other equipped vehicles to minimize congestion and prevent collisions. GM says the eventual result will be "autonomous driving and parking."
The vehicle will also eventually be able to tap into the smart grid, returning electricity to the grid during peak hours.
The PUMA shows that GM is thinking smaller. “We were the S.U.V. company, and we accept that,” said Larry Burns, GM’s vice president for research and development and strategic planning, to the New York Times. “We want to become the U.S.V. company — known for ultra-small vehicles.”