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FAIL 2 : SEGWAY

FAIL 2 : SEGWAY

Maybe you do not know the details of the Segway history : a great idea, "diverted" from its original purpose, which manage to cause the fall a President of the United States,of the best sprinter of the world and unfortunately the death of its CEO.

In the late 90s, Dean Kamen is a successful inventor / entrepreneur  specialized in the medical sector (insulin pump, DEKA, FIRST, etc) that develops the iBot, a motorized wheelchair able to balance on two wheels and climb stairs. Excellent!
The paths of innovation are often tortuous : the project takes a different direction when during a weekend, D. Kamen dismantled an Ibot and transform it into a free-standing platform with 2 wheels rather playful, very original and therefore easily marketable, the Segway. To make matters worse, at the same time, the first Internet bubble swells and some visionary gurus of the Silicon Valley (J.Bezos Amazon, S.Job, etc.) said that IT or Ginger (the project code name that is still secret at that time) will change the face of the world and invested a few armfuls of millions.

In 2000/1, the start-up machine start moving : global promo campaign (one of the first buzz of the internet history), construction of an high-tech factory, hiring of a distribution network (aka the first pigeons) ... all sized for a volume of 100,000 Segway / year at $ 7000 per unit. Easy ... (D.Kamen quickly and wisely leaves the company)

Incidentally, no one wonders about some minor details: where to use the Segway for example? what about the legality of the vehicle? the intrinsic safety of this technology (which requires high power engines)? More generally, is this awesome product (albeit expensive and complicated) for people with mobility problems still really justified for regular mass mobility?

Already in 2003, a President of the United States, certainly awkward, became the victim of the Segway. Although in hindsight, the conspiracy of Pretzel and Segway could have avoided us some problems, it is the kind of advertisement that a manufacturer rarely survives.


In 2009, despite spending $ 400 million, sales are notoriously inadequate (10,000 per year) and the company in difficulty is acquired (and saved) by a wealthy English entrepreneur, Jimi Heselden. This one, full of common sense, renounces individual customers, focuses on the rental market for "scenic tour" and reduced the target to 10,000 Segway / year. The company is saved but sadly, Jimi Heselden passed away in late 2010 during his morning walk on a Segway on a slippery and bumpy path along a cliff.

Basically, the logic underlying the stability of the Segway reaches its limit when a wheel loses "contact" with the ground, for example during a skid in a mud puddle or on an obstacle. Without reference, the (large) power of the motors unleashes for better or for worse. Type "segway fall" on YouTube and you'll see.

In 2011 the company was bought by the Chinese company Inmotion Technologies with whom she was on trial regarding patents.

Meanwhile, from 2006 to 2009, the iBot wheelchair has been successfully produced by the company D. Kamen. The marketing was arrested for regulatory and commercial reasons but new versions / brands are now available.