“The past few months have been incredibly exciting for us,” said the first emailed newsletter from the Segway company.
The launch of the Segway in December 2001 “generated a great deal of attention…We have been overwhelmed not only by the amount of news coverage, but also by the number of people who have participated in debates about Segway HT’s potential impact. We are excited by the range of debate and by the passion people bring to the discussions.”
For ‘passion’, in most cases, read ‘derision’. Spoof websites have even been created that lampoon the perceived dorkiness of the Segway and try to demonstrate that it easier to walk than Seg. See http://web.0sil8.com/…/home.html for a brilliantly funny critique.
However, the product has received a lot of eyeballs: seven weeks after launch, the Segway website had received 4.7m visitors.
“Now that the initial excitement has subsided, we are ready to take a deep breath and start putting that potential to work,” said the Segway newsletter.
Segways are being trialled by Boston, Massachusetts Police Department and postal workers in Tampa, Florida. One postal worker, interviewed on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered programme, reported that Segway HT "works great." His only lament was that he would have to go back to walking his three-mile-a-day route when the test was over, reported Segway LLC.
Tampa Postmaster Rich Rome said:
"The United States Postal Service has a long history of testing innovative modes of transportation. As an organization dedicated to deploying technology that drives efficiency, we are proud to be selected as a test site and look forward to giving the Segway HT a thorough evaluation."
The Segway HT will be used on five "park and loop" residential delivery routes where a portion of deliveries are made by a letter carrier on foot. Each route has approximately 500 delivery addresses.
The Postal Service will be evaluating whether use of the Segway HT results in greater delivery efficiency. "To determine the potential for cost savings and increased efficiency, we’ll be evaluating delivery time using the Segway HT compared to straight walking time, as well as safety and ergonomics," said Rome.
"We believe the Segway HT will provide the U.S. Postal Service with a meaningful solution that enables letter carriers to do their job more efficiently and with less physical demand," said Dean Kamen, Segway LLC’s chairman and CEO.
Segway LLC’s Bedford, New Hampshire, manufacturing facility is ready to roll. Dean Kamen himself will assemble the very first production Segway HT which will be sold to a corporate client.
Chubbies can wait, there are no plans to build consumer Segways until the end of 2002.
“To meet demand from pioneering organizations like the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Park Service, General Electric, Axicon, Michelin, and Delphi Automotive, the plant will focus on production of commercial machines through at least the third quarter of 2002,” said the Segway newsletter.
“For the many of [those] who expressed interest in being one of the first to own the consumer version of Segway HT, we’re expecting to begin offering consumer machines sometime in the fourth quarter.”