October 13, 2004 11:36 AM PDT

Segway may go off-road

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Today the sidewalk, tomorrow the world.

That's the promise from scooter pioneer Segway, which unveiled a prototype design this week for a four-wheeled vehicle that would allow riders to traverse rough terrain, among other benefits.

The Centaur appears to be in a fairly advanced state of development--videos on Segway's Web site show a test version zooming across a variety of terrain. But Segway's description is more tentative, characterizing Centaur as "a concept that passed (an) initial feasibility test but is not yet ready to become a product."

Segway spokeswoman Carla Vallone said there's no timeline for development or possible merchandising of the Centaur. "This is a concept that looks like it's feasible but hasn't been through our rigorous testing and safety processes yet," she said.

Vallone said the Centaur information posted on the company's Web site is intended to help gauge market interest. "We're getting feedback from dealers and the general public to identify what the market might be for something like this," she said.

The Centaur description page twice states, "At the present time, Segway LLC has no plans to manufacture or sell this as a product."

If the Centaur does make it to market, though, it could be a lulu. The contraption looks like a cross between a riding lawnmower and an ATV, with four knobby-tired wheels, a banana seat and mountain bike-style handlebars. The device uses the same "dynamic stabilization" technology as Segway's two-wheeled Human Transporter (HT) scooter, allowing a rider to easily lean it onto two wheels for negotiating tight spaces. The Centaur combines the positional control of the HT--lean forward to go forward--with steering and throttle control via the handlebars.

The Segway HT went on sale two years ago amidst Herculean hype, with figures such as Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos initially calling it a revolutionary transportation device that would change the way cities are laid out.

Reality has been less kind. The company had sold about 6,000 after a year on the market, before a mandatory recall to upgrade the device's safety software. A number of cities have restricted use of the scooters, saying they're too big and fast for sidewalks and too small and slow for roads.

The Centaur could get around such issues by being positioned as a recreational vehicle rather than an urban transit alternative. The promotional video on Segway's Web site mainly shows the Centaur zipping down country roads, open fields and forest trails.

Segway is upping the ante for existing customers, meanwhile, with a new online store selling accessories for the HT. Options for pimping out your scooter include chrome wheels, a "pedestrian alert" bell and five types of headlight.

9 comments

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America at 10 mph
The Centaur looks really cool. But will they ever actually manufacture and sell it commercially?

In the meantime I have been keeping tabs on the insane story of four guys taking a Segway HT across the country. See: www.10mph.com

Last time I checked they were in Chicago participating in the Columbus day parade.
Posted by (2 comments )
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Yes, we need it
We very much needed another bourgeoisie toy. Its been a quiet revolution indeed. Im yet to see a single person ride a Segway to/from work in downtown Chicago.
Posted by (4 comments )
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You missed them. They were just in town!
The 10mph.com guys were just in Chicago and, according to their website, hung out with a several other Segway HT owners. Segway is a fun product but it is too pricey for most people.
Posted by (2 comments )
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What a dumb idea
americans are fat enough... people should not stop walking people should walk more
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
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Its only practical for very short distances
The Segway Centaur IMOP is a good design for the ocasional off road excursions for lots of fun but in the city or campus environment its good for only short distances and it can double as a mail carrier for the postal service and other offices and campanies.

Considering its 10MPH speed I see it as only as good for what its capable of doing short mail carries and quick shuttles from building to building. A couple of local colleges have good use for these vehicles.

If only they can place the price at $1000.00 or below then everyone can buy one. SIGH.
Posted by msims (66 comments )
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How about...?
Ok, we have the segway, and I am sure it is wonderful and a brilliant piece of engineering, but can it climb a flight of stairs? Can a person use it if they cannot stand? How about a tracked version that includes some method of supporting a person who cannot stand and also has treads that can change position from verticle(flat ground mode) to any angle that will allow them to negotiate a staircase? Now that would be an invention!!!!

PS - Make it reasonably affordable so everyone can get one, like the little scooters and power chairs.
Posted by Spockva (4 comments )
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I've tried the Centaur by Segway
I had the special opportunity to have a brief try of the Centaur last Sunday evening after SegwayFest 2004 in Florida. I can tell you that this thing is way cool. It can go 20 MPH and is very agile.

The greatest thing, though, is that when it pops a wheelie, it goes into balance mode like the Segway HT and will stay on the rear wheels as long and the rider wants. While up there, it is controlled just like the Segway HT by leaning forward to go forward, leaning backwards to go backwards (yes, go in reverse while doing a wheelie), spinning in place, etc.

Fantastic piece of engineering.
Posted by (2 comments )
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how mach it will cost?
Posted by benavnon (1 comment )
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