Sailing along on a Segway
Consider these predictions. Dwindling supplies of fossil
fuels. Pollution reaching record levels from exhaust emissions. Congestion on
the roads making commuting a thankless task of sitting for endless hours in
traffic jams. We are all subject to this, and this is the real picture. Right
What will the picture be like for the commuter in 10 years time? Twenty years?
(Thirty years is beyond the range of my crystal ball, but unless there is some
rapid change, the future looks bleak.) Oil prices per barrel such that only the
G8 countries can afford to buy it. Pedestrians will have to wear respirators as
the toxic particulate levels go well past “safe” levels, and people will have to
queue for public transport, as there will be no room on the roads for private
cars. A Sunday drive in the country? Forget it. It will be Tuesday before you
To get over the fossil fuel problems, we have to look towards alternate fuel
sources, and electricity we have, we know and we know how to control it.
Electricity is virtually non-polluting, but how shall we get over the traffic
congestion with too many cars, with single occupants? Forget about car pooling.
It has not worked, nor will it ever work, while human beings are still able to
The answer as I see it, is your own personal transport system which runs on
electricity and can carry you to work and back, using only a small amount of
space, just slightly greater than that taken up by a pedestrian. Is this Utopia?
No it is not, because it is here now.
There is a personal transporter. It is the Segway. One you stand on and it
carries you in any direction you want – intuitively. You “think” where you want
to go, and the Segway carries you there almost noiselessly. In many ways, it is
an extension of your mind and body.
Now while that sounds a little like science fiction, it is not. I had the
opportunity to play with the Segway range last weekend, and it was amazing, just
how quickly people would grasp the mobility concept. A couple of the delivery
girls at the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital took less than 30 seconds to cotton on to
what to do and within five minutes were whizzing soundlessly along the hospital
corridors. (Mind you, it should be pointed out that a certain American President
fell off while trying to use one. This may explain quite a lot.)
So how does it work? Simple. Lean forwards and it goes forwards, lean back and
it goes back. Inside the Segway are five gyroscopes which detect an ‘out of
balance’ situation, and correct this with the appropriate motion. In actual
fact, this is how a baby learns to walk. The baby stands and then leans forward
and unless something is done, it falls on its face, which it does continuously
until it learns to place one leg forward to stop the falling motion. This is
Step Number One. Remaining in the leaning forward position it will then bring
the other leg forward. This is Step Number Two, and us bi-peds go on from there.
When we become more adept at this, we can even walk backwards and learn to turn
in any direction.
So just how does the Segway, a two wheeled personal transporter, accomplish this
‘humanoid’ behavior? Basically it does just like us, detecting the
out-of-balance situation and moves forward in response to this. Because we can
balance ourselves, we only need two legs, or in the Segway’s case, two wheels.
It has two independent electric in-wheel motors, so it can change direction
easily, in fact it can turn in its own length. This is controlled by a simple
twist grip. Ingenious, and intuitive. Tomorrow is here today.
Segway Thailand can be contacted at 02 385 1345 and www.segway.co.th. But please
be seated when you hear the price. Tomorrow’s technology does not come cheap.
The Aussie Tuk-Tuk
Many years ago, in my previous existence in Australia, I was
the owner of a Thai restaurant called Thai Tasty in Brisbane, the capital of
Queensland. As always, facts can be checked to show the veracity of these
Tasty was memorable for many reasons – it was the first “Thai fast food to go”
in Brisbane – it was my first foray into the food bizz - and it was my first
foray as a Tuk-Tuk driver. This was a genuine Bangkok Tuk-Tuk which we had
imported via Sydney, shonkily registered it in that city and then brought up to
Brisbane on a truck.
I can still remember it being unloaded from the transporter, firing it up and
roaring off down the road. At the very first corner I thought I was either going
to go straight on, or roll over! A diabolical device, and I began to understand
why being a Tuk-Tuk driver is one of those occupations reserved for Thai
nationals! It is! Look up the statutes – shoe cleaner is another one. No joke!
However, the Tuk-Tuk soon became the symbol for Thai Tasty, and I rode (rather
than ‘drove’) it everywhere. I soon also became the target for my local
Inspector Plod who wanted to know why it was registered in Sydney, and I was in
Brisbane 1000 km away. I could fudge my way out of that one by saying we were in
the process of changing addresses. He also decreed that if it were a motorcycle
I must wear a helmet, but if it were a car I had to wear a seat belt. My pleas
that this strange vehicle was neither a car nor a motorcycle were to fall on
deaf ears. Inspector Plod recognized two categories of vehicle only, and Tuk-Tuk
was not in his book of rules.
Since the thought of attaching a seat belt mount to the vinyl roof was more than
faintly ridiculous, and I had no desire to wear a helmet, Tuk-Tuk became hidden
at the back of the restaurant and only used for surreptitious nocturnal blasts
around the block, taking the last few diners for the ride of their lives. By
this stage, I must add, I had mastered the art of two wheeled cornering which
resulted in the predictable screams from the rear seat.
When I sold the restaurant, the Tuk-Tuk went with it, but I still have this
masochistic hankering for one even today. But I lie down till the need passes
Last week I asked which motor vehicle manufacturer was bought
by the British Central Equitable Trust – and why? The answer was Bentley, and
the trust was being used as a ‘front’ to hide the fact that Rolls-Royce wanted
to buy Bentley to stop the competition from the rival manufacturer.
So to this week. I have mentioned the Segway. Who invented it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Motor Shows in Thailand
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that there were two auto shows
in Thailand, but one of the readers, Tony Hawkins, has suggested to me that
there could be three!
He wrote, “I would like to draw your attention to the Automechanika Thailand
which will be at the Muang Thani Arena (Impact Exhibition and Convention
Center) from 10 to 13 May 2006. This will be the first Automechanika
Thailand, making three motor shows in total now.
The link to the Automechanika Thailand website is http://www.messefrankfurt.
“There is also the Thailand Auto Parts and Accessories (TAPA) show which
runs from 11 to 15 October, 2006 at BITEC, but this is geared up more to the
trade. The link to the this show is
I had a look at the Automechanika site and it has exhibitors from all over,
including a huge number from China. The Chinese revolution is not coming. It
is here already, and in our backyard. You have been warned.