October 2, 2002 5:45 PM PDT

Segway faces regulation in California

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California's local governments will be allowed to regulate electric personal mobility devices, such as the Segway Human Transporter, under a bill approved over the weekend by Gov. Gray Davis.

Senate Bill 1918 takes effect next March and will last until Jan. 1, 2008. Under the law, local governments will have the power to regulate the time, place and manner for using the scooter-like devices, including the power to outright ban them from certain areas. Senior citizens groups in California already oppose permitting people to ride Segways or similar devices on sidewalks.

"This new and innovative means of individual transportation will allow people to move throughout urban environments without pollution, significant levels of noise, or massive parking areas," Davis said in statement.

The Segway Human Transporter, formerly known as "Ginger" and "IT," is an electric-powered, self-balancing, two-wheeled device designed by inventor Dean Kamen, who also serves as chairman and CEO of Segway. The HT can travel 12.5 miles per hour, or 20 kilometers per hour.

The U.S. Postal Service and the National Park Service are conducting trials for commercial use. A consumer version, which will be slower and cost less than the industrial version, will likely appear in limited quantities by the end of the year.

Along the way, the HT has inspired feverish expectations and haughty criticism. Some have claimed that the devices could ultimately change the way cities and communities are laid out. A motorized wheelchair created by Kamen that lets handicapped individuals ride along at eye level with others has been hailed as a major breakthrough in handicapped living.

Critics, though, say that few businesses or consumers will buy a device like the HT that costs $3,000 or more and weighs more than 80 pounds.

With California, the company has already received regulatory approval in 32 states. Illinois will likely be the next major state to examine the issue.


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