German Crash Tests Part 1: Segway

Martin Schwoerer
by Martin Schwoerer

Germans are fond of testing the heck out of machines, no matter how oddball the configuration. They even turned testing into a world-class industry, what with companies such as TÜV expanding into unlikely places such as China. The newest and strangest crash test was carried out for the German insurance industry association, as shown in this video via Spiegel TV. Surprise, surprise! If you drive your Segway down a sidewalk at top speed (15 km per hour) and a car pulls out in front of you, the resulting crash can be fatal. "At slow speeds such as 9 km/h, the Segway is fun and safe, but at higher speeds, even a helmet cannot prevent serious injury, because the full impact force is on the driver's jaw", says test engineer Siegfried Brockman. The rest of the video is worth watching for the pirouetting meter maids, and the "World's Funniest Video"-style clips of people (including GWB) falling off their Segways. But isn't life about choices? One could wear a full-face helmet (and scare small children), or hope for an airbag-equipped Segway in 2010 (just kidding). Or maybe just walk.

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  • Ingvar Ingvar on Aug 18, 2008

    "What is a two way braking system? Does that mean there is more than one way to stop the vehicle?" I don't know the exact technological terms, but essentially, yes, a road legal vehicle must have at least two fully independent ways of stopping. In cars, they are the foot brake and hand brake (parking brake). They are two completely separated systems, so, in a malfunction, the probability that the other systems works is quite high. On a motorcykle or moped, the two brakes works independently on the front and rear wheel and are operated by hand and foot, respectively. And that's fine and dandy when it comes to cars and bikes. But the Segway is just not configured that way. And as the laws look the way they do, the Segway can not be made road legal. The point is, the rules are obsolete when it comes to new technology. And instead of changing the rules or making an exception, the Segway are banned completely.

  • 50merc 50merc on Aug 18, 2008

    Rix: "I would much rather ride a Segway to work than a bicycle. ... It is attractive to me to be able to ride on the sidewalk rather than the street." You know, there must be a lot of Harley riders who feel the same way. Shoot, many times I've been in my car, stuck in a traffic jam, and thought how nice it'd be to instead drive on the uncrowded sidewalk. Now, if Segways were limited to walking speed, I wouldn't much mind Segways amidst pedestrians. (Especially if the machines made enough noise to be heard as they approach you from behind.) But at present, I think Dean Kamen is a genius for two reasons: inventing the Segway, and persuading many legislatures to exempt them from the rules governing motorized vehicles.

  • Capeplates Capeplates on Aug 19, 2008

    We have enough trouble with golden oldies driving their invalid carriages at breakneck speed on the pavements without encouraging the use of this circus paraphenalia in pedestrian areas

  • Shaker Shaker on Aug 19, 2008

    You can't deny that the four-wheeled concept is "hella cool" -- And the off-road version is the shiz-nit as well. Hopefully, sales in niche markets will be enough to keep Kamen's mobility innovations coming.