Cartoon Tuesday: GM Imitates WALL-E With La-Z-Boy on Wheels

segway_or_hoverchair.jpgGM has seen the future, and it looks like a B-n-L Hover Chair.
If you held out any hope that billions in taxpayer bailout money and Barack Obama's dismissal of Rick Wagoner would mark the end of General Motors' bad plans, today was a wake-up call.

GM's solution for the future of transportation is -- hold your breath -- a Segway built for two.  I don't know about you, but I want my money back. 

GM and Segway announced the prototype, which they dubbed "Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility," or PUMA, today in New York City, where the old single-occupancy stand-up Segways are already illegal.  The wheeled chair, which GM claims will address congestion, safety, affordability, parking, and energy concerns in urban areas, gets 35 miles per charge and does 35 miles per hour, a blistering speed that makes them just slow enough to get run down by the automobile company's more traditional vehicles. 

Unfortunately for those of us who already use a "personal mobility device" with more than 100 years of proven utility and health benefits, Dave Rand, GM's Executive Director of Global Design, said on Brian Lehrer today that he thought PUMAs should be able to use bike lanes. Lehrer was skeptical of the device, saying that the last time he heard of a transportation "revolution" was when Segways were introduced, and he noted how small a market share they currently have. 

When Lehrer challenged Rand on how PUMAs would fit in already dense urban areas, where carving out room for a bike lane is as difficult as it gets, the GM rep suggested they would start using PUMAs on college campuses and other areas that look nothing like cities.

Given that Segways cost around $6,000, the new PUMA would likely be more expensive. There are also concerns about safety and visibility, which GM claims they'll solve with technology links to existing OnStar systems so that the PUMAs will sense other vehicles and slow automatically, at least other vehicles with OnStar.

Rand said on Lehrer's show that users could charge the vehicle at home overnight or where it is parked during the day, the implication being that people have an easy place to plug in at night, as in a garage. Has Rand spent any time in a dense urban setting, where most people don't have garages? Does he envision all those plugs coming out of parking meters?

GM's announcement comes a day after Ohio State released a study that found 20 percent of preschoolers are obese. I know the mega-corporation lampooned in Disney's Wall-E was meant to be Walmart, but GM seems to be moving us a step closer to the B-n-L Hover Chairs that make physical activity a thing of the past.

I seem to recall from a class in high school something about us evolving to walk upright. Rather than worrying about how to incorporate an impractical new Segway into the urban realm, shouldn't cities be making more room for walking and cycling? The good ones already are.

Speaking of which -- officer, can you remove that thing from our nice new pedestrian plaza?

Picture_8.pngPhoto from NY Times