By on September 27, 2010

We’ve followed the ups and downs of Segway since its inventor, Dean Kamen introduced it in 2001 with the following (under)statement: “the impact of this in the 21st century will be just like what Henry Ford did at the beginning of the 20th century.” The Segway, he said, would “change lives, cities and ways of thinking.” Now comes word that Jimi Heselden, who bought Segway this past January, died when he apparently drove one of the off-road Models X2 off a cliff and fell to his death. Accidentally, it is presumed. According to a statement from the West Yorkshire police force, “The incident is not believed to be suspicious.” Our condolences to Mr. Heselden’s family, whose lives certainly have been changed by the Segway.

NYT

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33 Comments on “Segway Company Owner Dies In Segway Accident...”


  • avatar

    Our condolences to Mr. Heselden’s family, whose lives certainly have been changed by the Segway.
    Cold, man, just cold.

  • avatar
    Kman

    Despite the massive irony, let’s keep this respectful — a man, father and husband died here.
     
    The Irony is just bitter.

  • avatar
    carve

    Phew- for a second I thought Dean Kamen had dies.

  • avatar
    Crusty007

    Well he did get a return on his investment…..perhaps not the one he was hoping for. How would one define this kind of ROI? I think ‘negative’ doesn’t fit the bill enough somehow.
     
    BTW: Segways are ridiculously expensive. MASSIVELY.

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    So he was following Google Maps, Off-road edition?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    In 2003, I worked briefly for a supplier to Segway for an integral part of their drivetrain.  Having driven/ridden the thing, it can really get going (over 12 mph), and a fall or crash would be bad if you’re going at top speed, and slowing down takes some distance.
     
    Dean Kamen is a genius charlatan.  My kids have participated in the FIRST competition that he started, and he is definitely a prolific inventor.  But the Segway has never sold well because it has been plagued with some of the worst marketing of all time, including being priced far too high. We always felt that it could and should be priced similar to a PC.
     
    The 50k Segways sold over 6-7 years’ time pale in comparison to the 10k/week that he originally projected.  This ridiculous claim caused many suppliers (like the one I worked for) to lose a fortune in tooling costs and other expenses (even after deducting for hype), and the Segway has done nothing to transform our society. The company I worked for went out of business in 2004 as a direct result of being hitched to Segway’s pipe dreams.
     
    I’d say Mr. Heselden was burned long before today, like when he agreed to buy the company.  It’s a terrible shame he perished on his own product.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Mall Cops everywhere will pause for a minute in their rounds.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    Seems like if you could sell enough of ’em, it ought to be possible to make a Segway for about the cost of a dishwashing machine–say $700. I still wouldn’t buy one because the distances they can take you, in the conditions under which you’d use it (i.e., not raining, no snow, not much to carry) are all quite walkable.
    Plus you just look too dorky riding one.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    The real irony, or paradox, is that to save the rep of the product, the deceased will have be proven to have made a tragic mistake.

  • avatar

    the theory behind the marketing projections was a bunch of BS. It ignored snow, rain, cold, night, and the fact that most walkers in the city do’nt want to be sharing the sidewalks with machines that can go at least four times walking speed and mow them down. I don’t know what they were smoking. The segway really can’t do anything that a reasonably able person can’t do on a bicycle.
    The marketing itself was such incredible hype, and I’m surprised science magazines fell for it. “Code named Ginger.” Sheesh.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      “Code Name Ginger” is a fascinating book. Not only did Dean Kamen think the Segway Human Transporter (“SHT”) was hot sh*t, but so did some pretty high-powered other people. Like Steve Jobs, of Apple and Pixar fame. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. And John Doerr, a billionaire venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins. It was great to find that these geniuses can be as stupid as, or more stupid than, the rest of us humans.
       
      Ford’s Edsel was similar to the Segway. Packed with the latest technology, nobody would buy it. And GM’s first electric car the EV-1, chronicled in another very interesting book “The Car that Could.”

  • avatar

    Kamen did come up with an absolutely wonderful motorized wheelchair, that can climb stairs among other things. I’ve seen it in action, and I wish my mother, who died too soon for it, could have had one. It would have made her life a lot easier.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Wow, fate takes a weird turn.  With all respects to the deceased owner, I have serious issues with people flying by while operating Segways on crowded public sidewalks.

  • avatar
    protomech

    It was an XT, the semi-offroad model of the segway.
     
    “Our condolences to Mr. Heselden’s family, whose lives certainly have been changed by the Segway.”
    Don’t be an ass.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      Don’t be an ass.

      I didn’t think the TTAC comment was that bad. But this is a difficult subject to report with tact. Kind of like Mary Tyler Moore when Chuckles the Clown was tragically killed. Tragedy and comedy often go, quite strangely, well together.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Inasmuch as most humor consists of something bad happening to the other guy, that’s not really so strange.
       

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    All the Segway produced up until around 2008 were recalled due to stability problems.  Under an unusual set of conditions, the unit would pitch forward and throw the rider onto his face.  A number of people suffered serious head and mouth injuries (I don’t know if this is related to the pic of Pres. Bush taking his stumble).  I wonder if the unit that was involved in this latest incident was exhibiting some heretofore FMEA-non-predicted, or predicted but not addressed, failure mode.

  • avatar
    mcs

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Segway/GM P.U.M.A. I haven’t heard much about it recently.
    http://www.segway.com/puma/media-center.php
    http://www.segway.com/puma/

  • avatar
    aspade

    Who would have thought that the too fat or lazy to walk market would turn out to be so small.
    The only Segways I’ve ever seen were being ridden by transit cops and they checked both boxes.
     
     
     

  • avatar
    ChesterChi

    The hype about it just before it was released was just spectacular.  We were told that “Cities will be designed around this” if I remember correctly.

    After all the claims that the Segway had such incredible space-age technology, a friend of mine decided to build his own to see how hard it would be.  His answer: not very hard. 
    http://www.tlb.org/scooter.html

    If I remember correctly, the parts to build one cost him about $2000.  All of it ordinary stuff he ordered from various suppliers, no secret Segway-only technology.  The software necessary to run it was about 500 lines of C code.  Imagine how cheap the parts would be if you bought tens of thousands of them.

    I think Segway/Amazon wanted $4000-$5000 for their machine.  That was probably what kept their sales to such a pitiful level.  The only people willing to spend that much for a device of questionable usefulness and durability are very wealthy geeks, and there aren’t that many of them.  Steve Wozniak ended up being the Segway poster boy for a good reason (extremely rich, extremely geeky)

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    Say what you want about President Bush, from recovering from the Segway fall, to dodging a thrown shoe, the man can scramble.

  • avatar

    Seriously though, how they expected to take the world by storm @ 5K a pop still amazes me. All these years later, and they still don’t seem to get that one.

    This accident, tragic as it and any is, certainly isn’t going to help.

  • avatar
    50merc

    The Segway’s shortcomings can be easily fixed by adding two more wheels, seating for four, and a roof.

  • avatar
    ChesterChi

    I just checked on Amazon and the prices have come wayyyyy down recently.
    The Segway X2 costs only $7,300, and the i2 is a real bargain at just $6,129.
    I guess now sales will really take off.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Check the black box, maybe it was an out of control Toyota.

  • avatar
    carve

    I was a huge critic of the Segway when it first came out.  The people who bought into the hype started a forum- “theitquestion.com”.  I got in a lot of arguments…and all my points have been validated.

    The device just fills this in-between zone where there is very little demand.  It’s too fast and big for sidewalks, to small and slow for roads, not speed, range, or cost competitive with a bicycle, too heavy to be convenient for those with stairs, and costs as much as a much more substantial machine, like a motorcyle, motorscooter, or used car.

    What was all the compromise for: For a unique user interface, zero-radius turning, and the abilitiy to stop without putting a foot down.  Those just weren’t important enough for the vast majority of people to justify the massive cost.  I’m sure a similar-performing tandem-wheeled scooter could be made for 1/10th the price, and there isn’t much demand for those, either (and those have the advantage of still being somewhat rideable with a dead battery).

    For the segway to be popular, it has to be a toy that is somewhat useful, and cheap enough for middle-upper class to get as an impulse buy, or as a gift to a kid.  Maybe $750, max.

    I wonder if Dean Kamen, with his huge amounts of wealth, was so accumstomed to money that he really did think $5k was affordable. I wonder what the price would be if they really were building 10k of them per month? I wonder what a cheap chinese knock-off would cost?

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      Seeing as this guy fabbed one up, with off the shelf components, for under a couple thousand, I’d imagine the Chinese could make one for $400.

      http://www.tlb.org/scooter.html

  • avatar
    Disaster

    I always figured the Segway was the classic case of “Let them eat cake.”  You have this gazillionaire inventor with no idea how much a dollar is worth to the average Joe.

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