NEW YORK — I was sick for days — days! — after riding on an innocuous amusement ride named the Ali Baba at our neighborhood church fair recently. On any water rougher than a placid pond, I get seasick. So it’s not surprising that a short ride at the New York International Auto Show in the General Motors/Segway Project P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) vehicle — a wheelchair that took a detour through Pimp My Ride — left me feeling vaguely queasy. Actually, really queasy.
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the experience, or the car, or vehicle, or whatever it is. Think of a Segway for two that you sit in. Or on, because it’s kind of open air. P.U.M.A. is a gyroscopically balanced zero-emissions vehicle, or ZEV, with two wheel motors powered by lithium-ion batteries. It has a 35-mile range, and a 35-mph top speed. It’s Segway’s patented gyroscopic tipping — as the vehicle moves forward and back — that tied my stomach in knots.
Here's the PUMA captured on video on the New York show floor:
Dr. Chris Borroni-Bird is director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts at GM, and he says that the P.U.M.A. has only a quarter the mass of a regular vehicle. He sees broad applications for the vehicle to transport the elderly and disabled — not least because bodywork options include a hinged front-end that would make for very easy entrance and exit.
“Our holistic vision can be described as a three-legged stool,” Dr. Borroni-Bird said. “First, electric drive; second, the unique size and shape of the vehicle; third, connectivity. GM does believe in electrification, and we do think that future vehicles will need to be small.”