Testing the Budget-Conscious Segway p Series
Talk about hype. When the Segway Human Transporter (HT) i Series was announced to the world in 2001, the publicity budget must have been in the gazillions. You couldn't pick up a newspaper or watch a TV news show without seeing something about this "transportation revolution of epic proportions." If you thought the automobile was hot stuff, you hadn't seen nuthin' yet.
The Segway looked pretty cool, even though the spin sounded like something from the PR firm of Barnum & Bailey. To get the lowdown on this high-tech marvel, we asked the Segway folks if we could take one out for a test ride. "Sorry," we were told, "get in line, behind the TV media, the daily press and the guy who sells hot dogs on West 57th Street." We offered to buy one for the $4495 asking price. "No can do," they said. "You're a magazine. We're only selling them to corporations for industrial applications." We got the distinct impression that they didn't want us technoids to ride it and write about it.
Recently, Segway announced a second, slightly more compact model dubbed the p Series. Targeted at folks with a tighter grip on their wallets, the p, budget priced at only $3995, has a 2.5-mph-slower top speed and is $500 less expensive than the i. Meanwhile, several Segway-flavored knockoffs have emerged from offshore copycat companies. None offer the sophisticated 2-wheel balance technology of the real McCoy, and get by instead with three or four wheels for stability. We tried again to borrow a Segway for evaluation and--holy cow!--the company said yes.