On the cult comedy show Arrested Development, Will Arnett's character, Gob Bluth, proudly cruises around town on a Segway, in all its nerdy glory. Oh, how I miss you, AD! The upright, self-balancing electric scooter was intended to be a safe, practical, and economical marvel but instead has found itself the butt of many jokes, developing a stigma of laziness and dorkiness.
Today, however, General Motors Corp. and Segway Inc. hope you'll think otherwise. The companies have joined forces to create not just a two-wheeled electrical vehicle but a two-seater designed to be an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional cars and trucks. The project,called Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, is part of GM's effort to change its public image and focus on creating fuel-efficient vehicles. It is made specifically for city driving.
Weighing 600 pounds, PUMA would run on a lithium-ion battery and reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. According to Larry Burns, GM's vice president of research and development, the vehicles would also be part of a communications network, that through the use of transponder and GPS technology, would allow them to drive themselves. The vehicles would avoid obstacles such as other cars and pedestrians. I hope they can do something about the design; it unfortunately looks more like a rickshaw you'd find up and down the Atlantic City boardwalk.
"Imagine moving about cities in a vehicle fashioned to your taste, that's fun to drive and ride in, that safely takes you where you want to go, and 'connects' you to friends and family, while using clean, renewable energy, producing zero vehicle tailpipe emissions, and without the stress of traffic jams," said Burns. "And imagine doing this for one-fourth to one-third the cost of what you pay to own and operate today's automobile. This is what Project PUMA is capable of delivering."
The Arrested Development movie is slated for sometime in 2010. Maybe we'll get to see Gob upgrade his Segway to a PUMA.