Tourists ride on Segways through a street in central Prague, Czech Republic. Picture: REUTERS
Tourists ride on Segways through a street in central Prague, Czech Republic. Picture: REUTERS

The iconic Segway two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transporter is no more.

Launched at the dawn of the new millennium, it was hyped as the answer to the world’s inner-city transport needs and its inventor Dean Kamen said it would be “to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy".

That was, until the $5,000 (R86,500) launch price was announced which kiboshed the prospect of it being affordable transport for the masses. The expensive runabout was relegated to being hired by tourists for city tours. While the Segway has also remained popular for security, much cheaper electric scooters have been more popular for personal mobility.

Even so, Segway’s two-wheeler managed to survive for 19 years. But after selling just 140,000 units worldwide over that period, and accounting for less than 1.5% of Segway’s revenue last year, it has been discontinued

The device self balanced by using tilt sensors and gyroscopic sensors and the original Segway models had a top speed of up to 16km/h. Steering of early versions was controlled using a twist grip that varied the speeds of the two motors.

It offered a range up to 16km on a fully charged nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery with a recharge time of 4–6 hours.

In 2006 Segway introduced new versions that were steered by leaning the handlebars to the right or left and had a 20 km/h top speed.

The Segway was involved in some high-profile crashes, including the toppling of Jamaican speedster Usain Bolt during his victory lap by a Segway-bound cameraman in 2015. In 2003, former US President George Bush was also famously captured on film falling off his Segway.

In 2015 Segway was acquired by Ninebot, a Beijing transportation robotics company, which broadened the company to include other transportation devices including the Ninebot two-wheeled self-balancing scooter, and the Drift motorised roller skates.

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