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Segway - a balancing act for Cape cops

2015-07-22 09:31


BEL & BEL's NEW DESIGN: Vespa or Segway? Now you can have both as Catalonian company think outside of the box. Image: Bel & Bel / Maxihobby

As I journeyed through Cape Town's Sea Point suburb I was amazed to see a policeman patrolling astride - or should that be standing? - on a Segway machine.

In case you didn’t know the Segway has an electric motor instead of a conventional engine – in fact a collection of motor-processors and a brain – plus a set of sophisticated tilt sensors instead of the inner-ear balancing system.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen these marvels in action. [a Segway, not the police!].


On a car launch the PR host for Land Rover hit on the idea of providing some really cool relaxation for motoring journalists attending the launch of the Land Rover Discovery Sport in the quaint town of Prince Albert in the Karoo.

Hotel guests, motoring scribes and the public watched as several Segway experts demonstrated their product.

Now I don’t know if you much about Segways – I certainly didn’t – but the sight of grown men (and women) balancing on what looked like one of those push-it-yourself two-wheeled lawn-mowers from the 1950's proved rather comical.

VIDEO: Top Segway crashes

Titter not, however, because a Segway is one serious bit of equipment. Perhaps anyone who intends buying the new Landy should get one thrown in free!

This is how the Segway seems to work (by taking most of its cues from the human body, incidentally.)


If you stand up tall and lean forward quite a bit the chances are you won’t fall flat on your face because the brain tells you to fight the “incline” Your brain, nevertheless, knows you are likely to topple because fluid in your inner ear tells it so.

The brain then instructs that you put your leg forward to prevent you falling on your face. Instead of falling, you walk forward, a step at a time.

Like your brain, the Segway knows when you're leaning forward and will accelerate according to how far you lean - and that can by scarily quick! To maintain balance, it turns the wheels at just the right speed, so you move forward.

Segways call this behaviour “dynamic stabilisation” and patented the process some years ago allowing the Segway to balance on two parallel wheels…. no ifs or buts.

I was once told: “If at first you don’t succeed then skydiving is not for you.” Well, somebody should have mentioned that to one of the driving instructors who came flying off at around 10km/h that day in front of many, many people!

• New Segway prices in South Africa vary from R30 000 to R80 000 – but I did spot one on a commercial classified sites for R15 000 this week.

There's also a self-balancing unicycle these days - take a look.

Read more on:    dave fall  |  south africa

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