Human transporter balances itself

Segway LLC has just debuted the long-awaited Segway Human Transporter (HT) – the world’s first self-balancing, electric-powered transportation machine.

Segway LLC, the business founded by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, has just debuted the long-awaited ‘Segway Human Transporter (HT)’, the first self-balancing, electric-powered transportation machine.

With dimensions no larger than the average adult body and the ability to emulate human balance, the Segway HT uses the same space as a pedestrian, and can go wherever a person can walk.

The company is to produce three distinct models of the new machine: the i-series, for use across a variety of terrain, the e-series, for cargo carrying applications – up to 75 pounds in addition to the rider, and the p-series, for use in densely populated areas.

The transporter’s optimal range is approximately 17 miles on a single battery charge. It also has the ability to turn in place without hitting a nearby person or object. This is accomplished by the fact that the wheels have the ability to rotate in opposite directions.

Because safety was a key objective of the design, the HT has redundant sensors and electrical systems that share the load. If a problem develops in one, the other is design to maintain balance while the machine slows down before shutting down.

The technologies required to make the Segway HT possible included contributions from many OEMs.

Delphi Automotive Systems assisted in the development of the Segway HT’s circuit boards, GE Plastics provided many of the materials from which the HT was constructed, Saft developed the NiCd and NiMH batteries, while Silicon Sensing Systems helped develop the gyro and tilt sensor systems in the transporter’s commercial sensor assembly (CSA) – a key component of the machine’s self-balancing capability.

For its part, Pacific Scientific developed Segway HT’s complete brushless, electric servo motor. The electric motor has features unique to brushless servo motor technology, and some not seen on motors of any type. A new sensor design allows precision feedback to the motor’s drive electronics without the need for a traditional encoder or resolver.

A patented hemispherically-wound stator features redundant windings – effectively two completely functioning motors in one shell. This means that if one set of windings were to fail completely, the motor can continue to operate. As an offshoot of this winding technology, the motor’s size is substantially reduced. The motor’s construction also uses a proprietary injection-moulding process to mould key components of the motor and encapsulate the windings in one step.

Lastly, Michelin North America worked extensively with Segway to develop a tyre with a unique tread design, non-marking compound and low rolling resistance as well as a wheel assembly that provides the suspension for a comfortable ride.

Segway HT will first be introduced for commercial use. Initial applications include large scale manufacturing plants and warehousing operations, travel and tourism, public safety, corporate and campus transportation, mail, package and product delivery.