NEW YORK — Segway is recalling every one of its pricey, high-tech electric scooters because a glitch can cause riders to fall off, the company said Thursday. Six people have toppled from the scooters, which Segway dubs "personal transporters," because of the problem, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says. The riders reported head and wrist injuries.
The problem occurs when a rider is exceeding the scooter's maximum speed, usually 12.5 miles per hour. A safety feature designed to slow it down can misfire in certain circumstances, such as if it hits a large bump. That can cause the rider to lose balance.
A software upgrade that takes about fifteen minutes to install fixes the problem, Segway spokeswoman Carla Vallone says. Owners are asked to contact the company at 800-750-6557 or www.segway.com
to schedule an appointment with a local dealer. They can also ship the scooter back to Segway.
Vallone won't say how much the recall will cost Segway. But the recall is just the latest snafu for the little scooter line luminaries such as Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos once predicted would revolutionize urban transport.
The original Segway, code-named Ginger, was developed during the frenzy of the dotcom boom by inventor Dean Kamen. He had made his fortune designing a high-tech wheel chair, and wanted to tackle even grander problems.
His vision was that people would abandon their cars and hop on a relatively quiet, non-polluting Segway. That will help solve "the major global issues that we all face," he told USA TODAY in 2001.
Segway, a privately held company, doesn't release sales figures. But in 2003, when a power problem prompted a broad recall of the scooters, the company estimated that only 6,000 units were affected. To date, Segway has only sold about 23,500 scooters, Vallone said Thursday.
Price may be one reason: Segways cost between $4,000 and $5,500.
But many of Segway's owners are big fans. The Chicago Police Department has 26 scooters, which it uses mainly in crowded downtown areas. Officers like the speedy mode of transport and the fact that Segway's raised platform allows them to see above crowds, says spokeswoman Monique Bond.
Until the Segways can be repaired, those officers are back on foot or in their cars, she says.
City Segway Tours, a company that offers guided scooter tours for travelers in six cities, is still operating today, says U.S. Operations Manager Will Phillips. The company has never experienced the problem with its more than 80 Segways, so they're just giving customers an extra warning. Phillips says Segway dealers are scheduled to upgrade much of the fleet tomorrow morning.Friday
"If customers feel unsafe, we're not going to make them go out," he says. "But we're still rocking and rolling."