Segway’s prototype wheelchair crashed during a demonstration at the world’s biggest tech show, CES 2020.
The self-balancing S-Pod is based on ‘geospheres’ from the film Jurassic World and can reach speeds of up to 24mph, though the CES prototype was limited to 7mph. It was crashed into a wall by a journalist during a demo.
Segway told the BBC that no one had been injured in the crash. However, the S-Pod was not available for any further demonstrations which left us wondering: How badly damaged is it? That said, the likelihood is that Segway is just being cautious with its prototype.
Which brings us to another point — Prototypes are notoriously expensive. That is likely the real reason why Segway were so worried about the S-Pod. Putting it back out on the show floor and potentially doing more damage could have been hugely costly, in monetary terms and in terms of their reputation. A continuously malfunctioning Segway product would not look good for them, after all.
Beyond laughing at the crash, there are some more serious points to make about Segway’s S-Pod. It could be a fantastic technological development for wheelchair users when (or if, but probably when,) it actually comes to market.
One such wheelchair user got in touch with Segway on Twitter, saying: “I can hardly wait! I have been in a wheelchair for 26 years and electric wheelchairs are pretty much the ugliest thing there is. They are also just not fast enough to get out into nature. Soon I will be able to take bike tours with my family.”
It will be interesting to see how well the S-Pod fares when it’s not got a speed-limiter and when it’s on a more testing, uneven surface, rather than the specially laid out testing areas at CES. If it tackles obstacles convincingly it could open up a whole new world of possibilities for wheelchair users, depending on its price.
Right now though, it remains a concept. The unit is expected to go on sale sometime in early 2021, barring any further setbacks.