February 19, 2003 2:33 PM PST

Insurance: Home, auto...and Segway?

Progressive announced Wednesday that it's offering insurance policies for the Segway human transporter--despite assurances from the technology company that its two-wheeled devices are safe and offer antitheft features.

The insurance provider's offer comes as Segway is preparing to ship its controversial human transporter--formerly known as "Ginger"--to consumers on March 1. Segway, which received approval in 33 states to allow its transporters on public sidewalks, has recently incurred mounting opposition following a recent ban in San Francisco.

Segway is a two-wheeled motorized device that is used to transport people from one location to another. But critics are worried the large device may cause accidents on sidewalks--especially with elderly pedestrians.

Despite the opposition, Segway insists that its devices are safe.

"While the Segway HT is engineered for safety and specially encrypted to reduce theft, it is important that Segway customers have access to products and services that complement and support their purchase," Drew Ladau, vice president of Segway's U.S. business operations, said in a statement.

However, Progressive remains optimistic it will find a market among consumers.

"My hope is they are impossible to steal, or never cause harm or damage, and many consumers feel no need get insurance," said Ben Sheridan, a general manager at Progressive. "But some people who spend $5,000 may say, 'I just want to feel safe and comfortable knowing I'm insured, even though the odds are I will never hit someone.'"

Under Progressive's three offerings, consumers can chose liability, liability and comprehensive, or full coverage that includes liability, comprehensive and collision.

But consumers may find in some cases that their existing homeowners or auto insurance policies may cover the device, or coverage can be added on under different categories. State Farm Insurance, one of the nation's largest home and auto insurers, will cover the Segway under its recreational vehicle policy, said Kip Diggs, a company spokesman.

Nonetheless, Progressive's agents began fielding calls six months ago from interested customers who were having difficulty finding insurance companies to cover the device, Sheridan said. But at that time Progressive didn't have any insurance policies tailored to the Segway, and it could not be covered under the firm's auto or motorcycle insurance, he noted. As a result, Progressive approached Segway late last year to learn more about the human transporter.

Progressive and Segway also eventually entered into a contract, covering such issues as cross-marketing each other's products on their respective Web sites, Sheridan said. He noted, however, no customer list was shared and no money changed hands as part of the agreement.

 

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