APRIL 7, 2009
GM, Segway to Make Vehicle
By SHARON TERLEP
General Motors Corp. is teaming with Segway Inc., maker of the upright, self-balancing scooters, to build a new type of two-wheeled vehicle designed to move easily through congested urban streets.
The machine, which GM says it aims to develop by 2012, would run on batteries and use wireless technology to avoid traffic backups and navigate cities.
The struggling auto maker, surviving on a government lifeline, is looking to generate enthusiasm for its increasingly uncertain future ahead of the New York auto show this week.
GM has slashed product-development programs, advertising and spending on auto-show events. But it will take to the streets of Manhattan on Tuesday to show off a prototype of the vehicle, called PUMA, for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility.
The Segway Personal Transporter was launched with considerable hype eight years ago but practical issues prevented the scooter from becoming a mass-market product, including its relatively high cost and restrictions on its use in many jurisdictions.
GM is betting PUMA's more car-like traits -- an enclosed compartment and top speed of 35 miles per hour -- will lead to better results. GM didn't say how much the machines would cost, but research chief Larry Burns said owners would spend one-third to one-fourth of the cost of a traditional vehicle.
PUMA would have a range of about 35 miles. GM said it aims to use so-called vehicle-to-vehicle technology to avoid traffic problems and potentially have it navigate itself through city streets.
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Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page B2