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Commuting by PUMA

So GM and Segway have unveiled the PUMA, a new muscle car -- if the muscle you're talking about is, say, the eyelid. Or whatever it is that makes the nostril flare.

The PUMA could be a game-changer. It's practical, it's high-tech, it will surely save the planet. But it looks like it has as much horsepower as a carousel horsie. It looks like something out of Woody Allen's "Sleeper." If you drove this thing, you wouldn't say "vroom vroom" as you revved the engine, you'd say "meep meep."

It's not safe for people to talk on a cellphone while driving, but surely it's even more dangerous to drive a cellphone.

I'm not so jacked up with self-importance and manly-man bravado that I need an Abrams tank to get to and from work, but I'm not sure I want to commute in the kind of scooter driven by Shriners in the Fourth of July parade. If you got run over by an 18-wheeler, there'd be nothing left but a little round medallion that pedestrians would mistake for a manhole. I once had Hot Wheels cars bigger than this PUMA.

Image matters to a man. It was just this morning that I found myself getting heckled by my neighbor Angus while I was mowing my front lawn with my little electric mower. He was loving it, impugning the virility of my mower as it hummed across the grass. And it's true, I feel like I'm pushing an electric razor. I call my mower "the Lady Norelco." I told Angus that I was going to buy a new gas-powered mower. But I won't. Because of the planet and whatnot.

Maybe the people at Segway and GM can come out with a model of the PUMA that also mows.

And shaves your legs.

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 7, 2009; 3:40 PM ET
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I dunno, Joel. I can kind of see squadrons of these zipping down Rock Creek Parkway every morning. No 18-wheelers there, and you won't be going any faster in your Accord.

Posted by: capnchucky | April 7, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Also, the PUMA would greatly increase available parking at Mama Ayesha's (tell me there's still a Mama Ayesha's).

The real test will be if GM's new head honcho drives one down to DC to beg for the next round of bailout bux.

Posted by: capnchucky | April 7, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

It makes a nice wheelchair. I mean, those things haven't been around for a while already?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 7, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I dunno, Joel. I don't think the driver would say "meep meep".

That looks like an ACME product to me.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I find the stripes disturbing - a cross between crash test dummy colours and "Police Line - do not cross".

Suggested slogan: "The Puma: Combining the safety of motorcycling with the coolness of the Segway"

Posted by: engelmann | April 7, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

That's basically what I've wanted for a while-- a Segway I could sit down on. Although I think TWO sets of training wheels are a bit sissy.

Joel, don't tell Angus you've got a Fisher-Price My First Lawnmower -- tell him you've got an iCombine.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

no wonder GM is going bankrupt...I bet even Ralph Nader wouldn't drive around in that thing!

Besides, I think Ivansmom is right. Wile E. Coyote...Suuuper Geeenius already has.

Posted by: 99thfakeid | April 7, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

...although I can hardly wait for cable TV to start a show called "Pimp My Segway."

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

At the risk of exposing my total ignorance of such matters, how does it keep from tipping forward especially when on an incline or going downhill. Would it rock forwards or backwards with movement shifts?

Posted by: dmd2 | April 7, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

This is what you get when you get new soviet style socilist democrats running car companies. GM is done. This thing is crap.
If you get hit by a Geo you are dead. What a waist of time. I work in an Emergency Room and can only imagine the trauma coming soon broungh to us by the idiots in DC.

Posted by: markandbeth | April 7, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Maybe this is the real reason Wagoner was fired. He was embarassed to show this sort of "innovation" and this is Obama's answer to energy! :P

They need to make sure the tires are inflated correctly. If they do that we can all use rhetoric for energy as we won't need coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear anymore.

Posted by: Cryos | April 7, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Since we're on the front page, it might be a good time to open the bunker doors, or would that be a "waist" of time?


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 7, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

P.S. Puma means Mountian Lion .... wrong name, this should be named the grub, or roach, you know, something that gets stepped on by everything else out there. Or "Road Kill" That is a better name for it.. Organ Doner seat. Heavens chairiot. Last ride.

Posted by: markandbeth | April 7, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

No, the streets belong to the semis and the range rovers and whatnot. This thing is designed to stick to the sidewalk when possible, and to whoosh past the bicyclists as they get rained on, while you are warm and dry. A jaunty wave and a hearty "cheerio!" called out the window as you pass by them is just the thing to distinguish the reasonably well-to-do metrosexual from the hoi polloi.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 7, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't you at least wear a helmet when driving that thing? Yanno, at least so they can identify your remains?

Posted by: Raysmom | April 7, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

However, if you could manage to ride THIS thing to work, the manly men would respect you indeed!

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 7, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

What did you expect to be the future of transportation a Hummer? Put a bubble top on it and it would look very George Jetson futuristic. The link to the announcement also said they have the technology that would allow it to drive itself and avoid accidents. Sounds like the future to me.

Posted by: John97 | April 7, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, Jumper. This is the sidewalk conveyance of the future. I think dmd's concern is misplaced, because you should only drive it in flat cities, on level sidewalks. It would be perfect here, if we had enough sidewalks. You couldn't pay me enough to take that out in the giant pickup and SUV traffic here.

I admit I secretly think it is kind of cool. Okay, the idea is cool. Not even I think it looks right. Maybe that futuristic bubble would help. OR we could paint it pink.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Finally the groundhogs will have a fighting chance in those groundhog/road vehicle "interaction".

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 7, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Ohmygod. I think englemann nailed it. This looks both dangerous and geeky. But the big problem, I see, is that it is simply not practical. I mean it goes 35 MPH with a max distance of 35 miles. That's not even enough for a round trip to and from my workplace even if I could handle the derisive stares and leisurely pace. I just don't get the niche, I really don't.

Which makes me suspicious that this is an attempt to gerrymander proposed automobile mileage requirements. Or maybe I am being too cynical. Maybe it really is a well-intentioned effort to create the Vehicle of the Future. 'specially since I'm sure that cities will soon be redesigned to facilitate their use just like they were s'posed to be for Segways.

In the meantime I suggest the bus.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 7, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

The government will have to install GPSs transponders on all the deers for safety though.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 7, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Looks nice for retiree-oriented golf cart communities, except it's too hard to get into. On the other hand, if it accelerates like a dirt bike, flies across sand dunes or crawls over rocks, all sorts of things are possible.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 7, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Check out the Full City Roast. A bit more sweet than roast. A lighter roast is just fine. That's what we drink. The furthest I go to dark roast is a blend of French, Vienna and Full City called Santa Rita Black and Tan.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 7, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

At least on a bike, you probably will fly over the car. Why not just put a bullseye on the front. ... yes, organ donor seat.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 7, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

The thing will climb hills, actually.

Many golfing communities are using golf carts to zip to the store and visit neighbors. It may be ironic that golfers in essentially gated communities are already de-facto leading the way into the future. This thing is similar in scale, a bit lighter and with less utility, although one assumes it could carry a bag of groceries as well as the occasional passenger. The two-wheel-yet-upright segway control system is neat from an engineering standpoint. In this respect it seems a mere one-trick pony, though.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 7, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Joel, Joel, Joel... you make me laugh, laugh, laugh... you man hole you!

Posted by: MissToronto | April 7, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Poor Ads by Google trying to figure this one out:

Barnyard Grass
New Braun Pulsonic Shaver
Eco-Lawn Grass Seeds

Posted by: engelmann | April 7, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I think it looks like a lot of fun. In a "sequestered in special Puma parks" sort of way.

Posted by: Yoki | April 7, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

You know what would work, with modern design and materials? The Model T.

Posted by: engelmann | April 7, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. I can't imagine crossing Roosevelt Blvd. in that thing.

Yoki, where did you put those pebbles?

Posted by: -dbG- | April 7, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

In my pockets, silly! Along with some of your clods. Mum will be pleased.

Posted by: Yoki | April 7, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

This line made me laugh the most--

"It's not safe for people to talk on a cellphone while driving, but surely it's even more dangerous to drive a cellphone."

And now I must sedgway my way out of the door...

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 7, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind taking the thing to the grocery store and back, but where would you put the groceries? I'd have to have a rack on the back, I guess. It would be fine to ride around in the neighborhood, but I'd be scared to take it out on the road. Riding on the sidewalk? Humph.

Posted by: slyness | April 7, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Where's the dog seat?


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 7, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

When we lived in a town house I used to have a 'lectric lawn mower. I would love to have one for use on the Vast Padouk Estate, but have never found one that was powerful enough to handle all the weeds. Not to mention that the cord would be heavier than the mower.

Still, I liked my electric mower, and not just because of that whole "Polar Bears are our Friends" sort of thing. I mean, you seldom wrench your trick shoulder starting up an electric.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 7, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure I saw an advertisement for Joel's mower a few years back. I believe it featured Santa Claus riding it through the snow.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 7, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I think it looks pretty damn nifty. Groceries could go in a covered bin in front or at the rear -- the Segway already is capable of handling an off-balance load like that.

Having just come back from a weekend in Manhattan less than 1.5 weeks ago, I can see how it could work very well there. Need to implement "spark-hydrants" like in the Watchmen graphic novel, so you can recharge at any point where you stop. A top speed of 35 mph already exceeds the average traffic flow rate in Manhattan. Since it is all-electric, acceleration would be quite sprightly -- it probably would have to have software to restrict the acceleration. My electric scooters can accelerate startlingly swiftly.

This also would work well in London, where (I recall), they have had to close sections of the city to private motor traffic and permit only taxis and public transport. Since those are vehicles whose access is controlled, they could be equipped with communications devices like those on the PUMAs so collision-avoidance technology should be able to keep the PUMAs out of range of being crushed by the taxis and buses. New York would be a tougher nut because private vehicles drive on the streets. Still, these are soluble problems -- for instance, maybe you need to accept a rental telecommunications device in order to drive in the city. Most private vehicles in New York are expensively garaged until they can be used to leave the city. Instead, you could garage a vehicle in Hoboken and use a PUMA in the city and to get to your car. Between London and New York, alone, you could have a market for several hundred thousand of these things, perhaps a few million. Doesn't sound like a disastrously bad business plan to me.

I agree with bc that I despise the idea of a system that always knows where you are. However, it would not be necessary for the PUMA to identify itself to a network in order for it to communicate with other vehicles and to self-navigate. It can self-navigate based on GPS, and communication with other PUMAs (or suitably-equipped cars and buses) could operate on the level of cellular automata -- it knows where the other vehicle is located and roughly how big it is (imagine transponders placed at the corners and middle of a big vehicle to map its shape). The doodads then just have to avoid each other and learn the speed range available to others. For instance, if the transponders on a cab have learned that it occasionally reaches speeds of 50 mph, then the PUMAs know that they need to stay out of its way, even though the cab (being controlled by a human) would not be under automated control.

Pedestrian-avoidance would require some sort of low-power radar or scanning lasers.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 7, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Seems like the PUMA would be great for San Francisco, too, where a car is a distinct liability. Guess it would depend on how well it handles hills. Definitely an urban critter, not meant for suburban commuting. At least they're working on something, better than the Hummer, if you ask me.

Rachel Maddow featured a guy last week who builds motorized bar stools. He uses lawn mower motors, I believe. It was pretty funny.

Posted by: seasea1 | April 7, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I'm a red-blooded, anthropogenic climate change denying, Obama mania deflating, meat eating, gas guzzling, ANWAR oil lusting, CO2 spewing (we all do, every time we exhale), 270 horsepower driving, bailout bashing, Rick Wagoner sympathizing, Reagan conservative, and I love the idea of this PUMA! (and my fascination with it has nothing to do with the Hillary voters who rebelled against the DNC call for uniting behind Obama.) I loved the original Segway; I rode one around a few times. The idea of putting a seat in it and a roof over it, and accommodating two people - what's not to love? Go GM! Go Segway! (And go jump in the lake, UAW!)

Posted by: dcsuburb | April 7, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | April 7, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

If the scanning lasers for pedestrians have weapons capability, you'll get a lot of takers. Probably you could jump-start the whole economy with PUMA sales.

Thanks, Weed, for the coffee advice. I'm ordering it for Ivansdad. I myself drink coffee only occasionally for recreational purposes; I rely on tea and chai for my caffeine. He's a coffee guy.

I know I'm better: I'm having a glass of a nice organic tempranillo grenache with dinner (a gift, and tasty). There is much rejoicing.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

You could probably get away with parking it in handicapped spaces, since the cops would think it was a motorized wheelchair.

I wonder if the Scooter Store will start advertising it on TV? Is it covered by Medicare?

Posted by: swmuva | April 7, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Joel! You've revived your great sense of humor! Best line..."drive a cellphone."


Posted by: Windy3 | April 7, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

People, I have laughed so much until it hurts, so I'm going to drag myself to bed. Joel, this is one funny kit. And I just cannot find the words to describe that "thingy" in the picture above. Please don't insult scooters and wheelchairs by claiming kin to what's in that picture. Is it open or is that a big window on the side? And I hesitate to use the word "big".

The g-girl thinks I've lost my mind because I was laughing so hard. Have a good evening, folks. Sweet dreams, and may one day we all own a PUMA.

Posted by: cmyth4u | April 7, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

HAHA that thing would get run over by a kid on a bike. But I wouldn't mind driving it if I lived on the boarder of walking distance from work (like 2 miles) or in a really crowded city. In Dc though I'd rather just take metro than get destroyed in that little thing.

Posted by: RJlupin1 | April 7, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I can find you a lightly used Abrams, no problem...

And as long as we're still mentioning GPS -- I hate to say it, but that wasn't NASA, that was a purely military app that eventually grew civilian uses.

*I-survived-another-crazy-day-and-stay-tuned-for-more-weekend-tales Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 7, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

I bought my praying mantis egg cases today. Cheap entertainment, and a sign of hope.

Posted by: seasea1 | April 7, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

You guys are *really* gonna hate me for this post. But here goes anyway.

Scotty is right: GPS was primarily a military invention. It was an improvement upon an earlier system (used by boaters) called Loran, which stands for "longe-range aid to navigation."

Loran was developed during WWII, being modeled after a British creation called GEE navigation. GEE and loran were used by both the British and American navies, primarily for ships but also for aircraft.

OK, here's the um...interesting part. The original name for loran was LRN, which was named after its inventor, Alfred Lee Loomis. Yes, LRN stands for Loomis radio navigation.

Uh huh. Yep. No lie.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 7, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

seasea, how many praying mantis egg cases do you need to make a praying mantis quiche?

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 7, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Ahh. Men and testosterone. Sad, but many "men" get their rocks of precisely because they mess up the environment doing what they do. It's all about marking their territory.

Posted by: steveboyington | April 7, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

...who, in all fairness, was a helluva guy (and whom I have long been familiar with). I shall merely quote here the first paragraph of his Wikipedia bio:

"Alfred Lee Loomis (November 4, 1887 – August 11, 1975) was an American attorney, investment banker, physicist, philanthropist and patron of scientific research. He established the Loomis Laboratory in Tuxedo Park, New York, and his role in the development of radar is considered instrumental in the Allied victory in World War II. He invented the Aberdeen Chronograph for measuring muzzle velocities, proposed the LORAN navigational system, contributed significantly (perhaps critically, according to Luis Alvarez) to the development of a ground-controlled approach technology for aircraft, and participated in preliminary meetings of the Manhattan Project. Loomis also made contributions to biological instrumentation—working with Edmund Newton Harvey, he co-invented the microscope centrifuge, and pioneered techniques for electroencephalography."

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 7, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

My Goodness! Mudge totally rawks. In every way a storyteller can rock.

Posted by: Yoki | April 7, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha, Mudge, you'd need quite a few. The egg case is sort of like soft styrofoam, about half an inch across. Very odd, in that you can't really tell if the little mantids have "hatched", unless you see them. I've seen them do that - but I haven't seen any large ones afterwards. So it's a test of faith, or an exercise in futility. In other hopeful news, my snow peas are sprouting in the garden - yay! Now I'm hoping the birds don't get them.

TBG, I got your note today and replied - not sure if it went through. Hope yellojkt's doing ok in Italy.

Posted by: seasea1 | April 7, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

A few questions
Where do you hitch the trailer?
Where is the gun or fishing rod rack?
I'm not sure but is there enough room for groceries and a cooler full of adult beverages?

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 7, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

It's definitely a fair-weather vehicle. I can't see myself driving it in rain or when the temperature is below 60. But then I'm cold-natured.

Posted by: slyness | April 7, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Segway still trying to sell the technology that has killed two people, one known serious head injury and just for kicks quadriplegic injuries for another. This does not include the numerous lawsuits for face plants and other forms of bodily harm. Consumers have been and will continue to be seriously injured when the Segway malfunctions and suddenly stops without warning or when the tires lose traction due to a twig, a flaw in the road, etc.

GM's vice president says this is going to be safe. Really, like the anti-tip wheels! And he says no air bags and seat belts only for "comfort purpose." Wake up reporters and start reporting on the real problems with the Segway and the harm it has caused. A helmet can't protect you from all head injuries and aren't designed to protect your neck from fracture and potential spinal cord injuries

Posted by: Trube6 | April 7, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

gwe, ha!

U2 concerts added:
"Newly announced cities comprising what the group is calling its "final 2009 concert dates" include shows in Raleigh, NC (10/3); Dallas (10/12); Houston (10/14); Norman, OK (10/18); Phoenix (10/20) and Las Vegas (10/23)."

You did good, LA Lurker:
"The Oct. 25 performance at Pasadena, CA's 90,000-seat Rose Bowl sold out in a matter of hours, marking the largest concert performance to ever take place in the historic venue, as well as the quickest sell-out, according to tour promoter Live Nation."

Posted by: seasea1 | April 7, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

But on the other hand, that video of Dubaya falling off that Sedgway was priceless...


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 7, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, that was funny. I laughed so loud I scared the Boy - then he read the post, actually learned something, and had cause to be annoyed all over again.

greenwithenvy has a good point - those PUMAs for sale here better have a gun rack, fishing tackle stowage, or at least a bike rack.

Yes, I noticed U2 is coming here. Technically I suppose I could get tickets. We all know I won't actually do it. However, we did get tickets to the Lion King touring show for this month.

And in the Annoying Clueless People department: the Boy received an invitation for a sleepover birthday party. For Saturday. Geez, it is fine to be secular but for gosh sakes look at a calendar. I told him he could go but he gets picked up early early, since I sing and he's Boat Boy (holds the incense for the thurifer in the parades).

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

On bc's scaremongering out for the politicization of what you eat.

There is a disturbing tendency in this country among a large number of people to attempt to solve social problems by passing laws.

This problem occurs on both sides of the aisle.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 7, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

This source lists F.W. Loomis as the inventor of LORAN, not Alfred Lee Loomis:

"According to Bowditch -The American Practical Navigator, LORAN was derived from the words LOng RAnge Navigation. If those three words are abbreviated, it becomes LRN, the exact term on the Frigate drawing. Prior to being called LORAN it was known as LRN [1] as well but meaning "Loomis Radio Navigation" in honour of F.W. Loomis [2], Associate Director of MIT's Radiation Laboratory who had previously been the Head of the Physics Department at the University Illinois."

Francis Wheeler Loomis, a physicist with a strong managerial bent, was brought to the RAD Lab to establish some sense of order and control over the often chaotic work of other physicists, according to "Tuxedo Park" author Jennet Conant. She claimed in the book that F.W. and Alfred Lee were unrelated; this is false, they were both descendants of Deacon John Loomis, so more closely related than most Loomises.

I made, three or four years ago, a call and exchanged several e-mails with the physics department at Urbana-Champaign to determine Frncis Wheeler's place on the family tree (specifically, his father's and mother's names), since the Loomis genealogy tome was last edited around 1906.

I do not have a definitive answer on which Loomis developed LORAN--is Bowditch or Wiki the more reliable source? Certainly Alfred Lee Loomis helped shepard LORAN through tests and out of the RAD Lab, but who was the actual inventor, Alfred Lee Loomis or Francis Wheeler Loomis?

Posted by: laloomis | April 7, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

The Daily Show is outdoing itself this evening.

Posted by: rickoshea0 | April 7, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

I agree rickoshea - very funny

Posted by: dmd2 | April 7, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Back from Charleston. The Hunley exhibit was the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. I had four to chaperone, and kept them all together. One spilled nearly a litre of tea in her lap, and I spent a good deal of the lunch hour drying the pants under the hand dryer in the men's loo. The group went through the market, and a momentary panic ensued when one child didn't rendezvous at the appointed time. Child found, crisis averted. Then, one underestimated the size of his bladder, one puked on the bus trip home, and we all arrived safely back at around 10.30. Dogs fed. Fait accompli.

Posted by: -jack- | April 7, 2009 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.
A busy afternoon making plans for race cars and doing some triage on a dead Audi I was given in a pine box. I think I can bring it back to life on the cheap (trying not to channel Dr. Frankenstein here). Plus it has only 106,000 miles on it, about half of what I'm driving every day, and about 60,000 less than my weekend/snow beater.

Reposted from previous Boodling:

Wilbrod, I like the idea of the PUMA - except for the part about complete submission of freedom of personal movement to the government or some other entity.

I'll stick to a skateboard if I have to, thanks. Americans' travel and communciations are already recorded far too much for my liking.

I believe citizenship to be about repsonsible exercise of personal responsibilty, including acting for the public good, locally, nationally, and globally.

I don't think it means abridging freedoms or rights (?) and submitting to faceless, unanswerable authorities.

But, that's just me.


PS. I'm sure the fully implemented PUMA system is one "green" initiative the Bush Administration and Cheney would support completely.

Posted by: -bc- | April 7, 2009 2:00 PM"


Posted by: -bc- | April 7, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse

My impression is that you COULD let the PUMA drive itself, but you don't have to. The navigation and collision-avoidance features could provide you with some form of warning (clearly, it needs to be provided in a helpful and intuitive manner -- electric shocks, perhaps), but you could do the driving yourself. Driving around someplace like New York, however, I just don't see how self-piloting would be all that fulfilling (unless you're a cabbie, and they have financial incentives that help motivate them to put the vehicle at risk). Of course, the PUMA, if auto-navigation works well, would threaten to put cabs out of business. You could imagine a next generation that would be a 4-wheel multi-passenger vehicle, or teams of PUMAs that would allow you to create a virtual interior using a TV screen and cameras so that multiple PUMAs could be combined to make effectively a single cab that seats 4, 6, 8, etc.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 7, 2009 11:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't even need to check the sports's pages. I live two blocks from the Saddledome where the Flames play, and now the streets around my building are filled with honking car horns. I'm thinking the Calgary Flames won a home game tonight. Which means they have a place in the play-offs or are first in the Western Division.

Help me out here, greenwithenvy.

Posted by: Yoki | April 8, 2009 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Jack! The *Hunley* - very cool!

Meant to add a couple of comments on Kit(Kitten? It is a PUMA, after all.).

I don't see myself driving a PUMA. I'm willing to play along that the shopping-cart casters on the front and rear to keep the thing from flipping backwards under acceleration and forwards under braking/decel are kind of like wheelie bars that drag racers use for the same reasons, but it reminds me a little too much of the Little Tikes vehicles that my kids used to play with.

Hey - please don't knock the "meep-meep."
I had a couple of Plymouth Road Runners - a blue '69 and a purple '71 - way back in the day (circa 1979-87) that both had "meep meep" horns like the Warner Brothers cartoon character. The cars both went like stink (13 sec. quarter miles up here at 75-80 Dragaway, which just reopened last weekend after being closed for several years, BTW) with their big-block-that-revs-like-a-small-block 383 c.i. V-8s, particularly that purple '71 with the 4-speed manual trans. Despite the horrific shifting but very cool-looking Hurst Pistol Grip shifter, too.

If I *had* to drive a PUMA (disconnected from the 'net, natch), I'd have to pull the motor out and add more copper windings and bigger magnets to the motor, lightweight motorcycle batteries, some big Brembo brakes in those wheels (I'd move to custom wheels and Formula Vee racing tires, too), a carbon fiber racing seat, and substitute wide racing kart aluminum wheels and Michelin tires for those shopping cart casters. Sheesh.

And I'd strongly consider a high speed fan- driven vacuum-traction ground-effect system for downforce to keep that thing planted during high-g cornering manuvers.

Oh, did I mention that I'd want a flame paintjob on the satin black?


Posted by: -bc- | April 8, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

There was a post up above about the injurious nature of the Segway. We need statistics. What is the occurrence rate of these injuries per passenger-mile or per vehicle? Serious or lethal injuries are relatively easily acquired using poorly-regulated lightweight vehicles such as bicycles, even in single-vehicle accidents. Is the Segway more or less prone to causing or being implicated in such injuries?

I just googled 19.96 fatalities per 100,000 licensed drivers in the U.S. in 2007. Extrapolating from the Wikipedia entry for the Segway, I'd guess that a total of about 50,000 Segways have been sold. If it were as lethal as the car, then there should have been about 10 Segway fatalities by now. I found a few anecdotal comments by googling, but most were asking about whether there had been a Segway fatality -- I couldn't find anything reporting an actual number, although at least one site reported a fatality in which a Segway was implicated. Even in that case, it was someone riding a Segway into a situation (the pit area of an active race track) in which the Segway would not have to be uniquely implicated. The claim from the appalled poster was that the Segway itself causes terrible accidents. This seems like a bit of an exaggeration. Any vehicle can be part of a fatal accident, but that doesn't put the vehicle uniquely at fault for it.

Perhaps someone who works at the Department of Transportation could weigh in...

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 8, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

smart cars are catching on around here, but i can't see this puma thing catching on.

ivansmom, if you like u2, you should go!

seasea, thanks for helping me figure things out. tbg, our ticket-purchasing guru, also gave me the rundown. i made one goof that knocked me out of line after getting through in the first couple minutes, but did ok on the second attempt. it appears the seats are about 20 rows up directly behind the stage (which is fine with me because the stage is completely open).

Posted by: LALurker | April 8, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Flames? Oh, please.

Lightning bolts.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 8, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

And how about an armrest for that lance you'd be sporting as you go out to charge the world in your satin-flame armor, bc?

After all, somebody has to give those windmills whatfor.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 8, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Too funny, *Tim!

Apparently I am wrong. The Canucks are winning with 5:00 left. Unless the interweb is behind the real game. I'll just cock an ear and be able to tell you within a few moments. If you care. Which you don't.

Posted by: Yoki | April 8, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

*Tim, re. self-piloting as always fulfilling to me.

Plus if you have two of them, eventually, you'll have a race. Humans have a race thing going, don't we?


PS. i.e. you know they *do* race lawnmowers, don't you?

To me, this video from the UK is a hoot from the old-school LeMans start to the checkered-flag victory lap.

And the bunny suit.

Posted by: -bc- | April 8, 2009 12:27 AM | Report abuse

I don't know Yoki,right now Calgary is trailing Vancouver 2-1 with 9 minutes left.
Not sure what all the excitement is about.

Unless they are coming east this week to see one of the Dead shows.They are playing in DC and VA this week right?
And I'm not sure if I would want to show up at a Dead show riding a Puma

Also travelling down the highway in a Puma surrounded by Harley's might be a little awkward as well.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 8, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

That sounds great, LALurker. And Ivansmom, I agree, if you like U2, you should go. I took my kid when he was 16 - it was his first rock concert - and we had a great time. Lots of people take their much younger kids. For the most recent tour, I wound up going by myself. U2 crowds, even when they're huge, are friendly and nice, and the concert experience is just out of this world. Having said that, I'm just as glad I never had to deal with 90,000 other people! Yikes. I'm hoping they'll come to Seattle and I'll be able to afford to go...I'm glad some Boodlers are going.

Posted by: seasea1 | April 8, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Still not sure why seasea bought praying mantis egg cases.

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 8, 2009 2:20 AM | Report abuse

there's a new concept in the automotive business
it's 2 seated, 2 wheeled, and too ambitious
General Motors fearing their time is over
is desperate to meet their innovation quota

partnered with Segway trying to make headway
came up with something just a little more deadly
works like the other one except that you sit
and ride around praying that you don't get hit

To listen to me rap my opinion, visit:

Posted by: unojklhh1 | April 8, 2009 2:28 AM | Report abuse

Hi, rainforest! Well, I've always liked praying mantises. When I was a kid in Pennsylvania, I found them occasionally. I've never seen one here in Washington state. They are beneficial insects - they eat the "bad" ones, like aphids. So, garden centers sell them, along with lady bugs. For the past few years I've gotten them. Each egg case has a couple hundred mantises...of which probably only a few survive for very long. I'd love to see an adult praying mantis in my garden sometime.

I suppose there are giant, scary praying mantises where you live! But the ones here are cute - weird looking, but cute.

Posted by: seasea1 | April 8, 2009 2:30 AM | Report abuse

This puma thing is not going to be saleable in these parts simply because you cannot stack another 3 or 4 passenger on it illegally.

Hummers are not marketed in these parts. I have seen only 1 Hummer on the road. The windows were tinted and the whole thing was black. Not sure if it belongs to the army or the Royal family.

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 8, 2009 2:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm totally laughing at what Rainforest says.

Posted by: Yoki | April 8, 2009 2:44 AM | Report abuse

That interesting, seasea. Our adult pray mantises are 3” to 4” long but nobody sells them just like nobody sells lady bugs or their cousins for their gardens. If anyone sells praying mantises it’s probably as food for some other critter.

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 8, 2009 2:46 AM | Report abuse

Hi Yoki, did your Calgary won the game?

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 8, 2009 2:50 AM | Report abuse

I really hope so. Let's ask gwe.

Posted by: Yoki | April 8, 2009 3:23 AM | Report abuse

Sorry to say Yoki but Vancouver took it 4-1.

Posted by: Kerric | April 8, 2009 4:40 AM | Report abuse

Don't you people ever go to bed? :-)

I am.

Posted by: -dbG- | April 8, 2009 4:50 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

I try to give ol' Alfred Lee Loomis some props and look what happens. *sigh*

Another worthless day over on the op-ed section. I'm not even gonna whine.

Tim, you were doing a fine job all on your own re: comparative statistics on fatalities. The thing is, so far as I am aware NHTSA doesn't track things like the Segway. But two fatalities as that poster claims is utterly meaningless. There's more than two fatalities on skateboards (but NHTSA doesn't track them, either).

OK, Dawn Patrol. Still nippy and very unApril-like here. I smell coffee in the Ready Room. Wonder what's for breakfast?

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 8, 2009 6:14 AM | Report abuse

Blueberry muffins and cranberry scones, Mudge. I was in the mood for something different.

We're down to 34 this morning, thank heavens it's not freezing. I hope the fruit survives. At least there's snow in the mountains to insulate the blooms.

Posted by: slyness | April 8, 2009 7:07 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Boodle!

No meep meeping for me as I vroom vroom on the Dawn Patrol.

It is still summery here--a real pleasure.


Posted by: Braguine | April 8, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. Not many came to the defense of the electric wheelchair zipping in and out of traffic at 35mph. I don't see myself sitting in that thing in the left lane of a busy urban road with my blinker on, waiting to turn left. The few gray hair I have left would turn white.

Looks like we'll have a white Holiday. It's so nice to be able to ski in the Holiday season. Now, wait a minute...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 8, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Coulda sworn there was a Bacon Explosion on the griddle when I got to the Ready Room...

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, NYC...

Got up Saturday morning and made some coffee, only to realize there was no creamer in the house. NukeBro had pointed out the local Trader Joe's, so I headed out into a brisk breeze. As part of the City that Never Sleeps, Brooklyn sure seems to nap a lot. I wandered over several blocks to find nothing opened before 9 -- apart from the little corner store I walked past early in my stroll. D'oh! Perhaps a PUMA would have been useful...

After coffee and the morning routine, we headed into Manhattan. Once we found a functioning subway stop, that is -- darned weekend track work. Got off at the Times Square complex and stayed underground as long as possible, given the wind. NukeSpouse appreciated all the neon and my pointing out the various landmarks, and was not terribly disappointed at missing the Naked Cowboy.

After a quick nosh at a small restaurant with a view of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and one of the few remaining "adult" shops, we headed over to 5th Ave to window-shop. Of course, I had to snap a few landmark pics, including the Chrysler Building (which my great-grandfather's firm built) and the Empire State Building. Macy's had its flower show in full bloom, but NukeSpouse wasn't terribly impressed by the crowds nor the selection she looked over. A street vendor pretzel tided us over as we headed back up Broadway so that I could unveil the centerpiece of the weekend...

*having-a-little-more-Hump-Day-caffeine-before-continuing Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 8, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Very funny Kit Joel. I'm not very impressed with this vehicle, I think the cons outweigh the pros. After all, the Segway hasn't exactly taken the nation by storm. But the comments here have kept me laughing.

Enjoying your recap of the NYC trip Scotty. Looking forward to more!

Posted by: badsneakers | April 8, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Indeed badsneakers. I think this is more what the Segway folks were hoping for:

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 8, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Mornin' everybody...

Sorry for going AWOL, but it's been a bit hectic around here lately.

Very good Kit, Joel. You (and the Boodle) pretty much echoed my initial reaction and resulting snide comments regarding the PUMA. It *is* a silly looking thing that doesn't look very crash-worthy. The concept of driving around pulling a perpetual wheely doesn't appeal to me either -- especially since I doubt the thing sounds like a Harley or would burn rubber on take-off. Maybe there's a market for them in gated retirement communities and golf courses or theme parks, but to drive one in traffic? I'd rather take my chances on a unicycle -- at least you can easily jump off one of those.

Anyway... glad to see the gang's all here and up to their usual Boodling goodness.

Back to the shop for me for now. Busier than all get out and Spring has barely sprung (though you'd barely know it in these parts).

Peace out... :-)

Posted by: martooni | April 8, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

New kit!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 8, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Wonder what comments they made when the bicycle was invented? It has survived even to this day and is the MOST COMMON mode of transportation in India and China.

Posted by: digtldesk | April 8, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

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