The Segway Human Transporter, the mysterious transportation device that was formerly referred to as "IT," could soon pop up on a sidewalk in your neighborhood.
The brainchild of inventor Dean Kamen, the Segway has been used strictly for commercial purposes so far, providing mail carriers, and police officers from New Hampshire to San Francisco, Calif. a quicker way to zip around town.
But after it goes on sale on Amazon.com today, IT will be available to the general public for $4,950 a pop. Kamen predicts that the Segway will become a commonplace site on streets and sidewalks.
Click here to take a closer look at IT.
Follows Body Language
The Segway resembles a scooter, but is based on a sophisticated gyroscope system, with tilt sensors that constantly check the rider's balance at 100 points of the body per second. If you lean forward, it moves forward. If you stand up straight, it stops. It takes only a slight movement on the riders' part to make the Segway move.
The device weighs 69 pounds, travels at speeds of up to 12 mph and runs on a battery. The commercial models, which cost between $7,000 and $9,000 have extra features, such as longer battery life, or pockets where mail carriers can put their mail.
Kamen says many states have adjusted laws to include Segways in the last year. "There are 32 states where we are legal," Kamen said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.
Is Segway Safe?
But some advocates for the blind and elderly have said the Segway may become a safety hazard because of its weight, and because no states are requiring drivers to be licensed.
Kamen said that the Segway, like all of his inventions, was made with safety in mind. If someone were to bump into the Segway, it would stop instantly, so injuries would be minimal. Even though it is three times faster than walking, the impact is less than it would be from getting hit by a bike, Kamen said.
Jeff Bezos, chairman of Amazon.com, says the Segways will be sold on a "first come, first served basis." Kamen says they'll start ramping up production as the orders come in.
Right now, delivery of the Segways is scheduled for March 2003, but there is also an early delivery contest that you can enter when you order the Segway on Amazon. Contestants must write an essay explaining "What is your favorite thing about the Segway?" and 30 winners will be chosen to get their Segways by Christmas.
Those who receive their Segways early will also get training on them from the Segway company, which will also deliver them to people's homes.
Kamen says Segway is easy to ride, and that it takes three minutes to get your bearings and about 15 minutes to master it.
Segway recommends that people wear helmets when using their human transporters, but they are not currently required