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Segway to Heaven. Image by GM.

Segway to Heaven
GM and Segway have conspired to create the PUMA, an electric cart that its creators hope will solve urban gridlock.
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This odd-looking golf buggy type thing is the car GM hopes will become the default choice for hip inner city professionals looking to get to work quickly and cleanly. The PUMA, which was co-developed with Segway - that's the same Segway who made the two-wheeled Segway PT personal mobility cart - is so clever that it refuses to crash.

It is also, obviously, powered by electricity so that it emits exactly no CO2 from its non-existent tailpipe, but the no crash thing could be a genuine revelation because it means heavy safety features like airbags and crumple zones can be despatched with. It works because all PUMAs are linked to each other via an "Internet-like web", as GM's Larry Burns calls it, which means they can communicate with each other for a nice spot of crash avoidance, traffic flow regulation and social networking. It's all very i-Robot really, except without Will Smith and the shameless Audi product placement.

The PUMA can run on two wheels thanks to Segway's 'two wheel balancing' technology (although it has three additional stabiliser wheels too), and is controlled with a tiny little wheel that looks like it swivels from the centre so that either occupant can drive it. It's capable of 35 miles between charges and will reach speeds of 35mph, which will probably feel outrageously fast in there, looking at it. For that reason, GM says it will add seatbelts 'for comfort reasons'.

And because some running prototypes have already been spotted on the New York streets, we can assume the PUMA is ready to pounce (thank you very much) very soon, as opposed to being another wacky urban transport prototype that will never see the dim light of a coachbuilder's factory. GM won't venture the asking price yet, but does claim it will cost around one-third of a city car to run across its life. We're guessing that doesn't mean a Tata Nano-like sticker, but still, not bad.

Mark Nichol - 9 Apr 2009

2009 GM and Segway P.U.M.A. Image by GM.2009 GM and Segway P.U.M.A. Image by GM.2009 GM and Segway P.U.M.A. Image by GM.2009 GM and Segway P.U.M.A. Image by GM.2009 GM and Segway P.U.M.A. Image by GM.

2009 GM and Segway P.U.M.A. Image by GM.2009 GM and Segway P.U.M.A. Image by GM.2009 GM and Segway P.U.M.A. Image by GM.    

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