Segway Inc. has continued its courting of the law enforcement market with the August 2006 launch of the company's next generation of Personal Transporters (PT) — the Segway i2 and x2 Pts, and the i2 and x2 Police packages. These new machines and their respective Police packages are the combined result of technological advances, end-user feedback, and miles and miles of product testing, says Klee Kleber, vice president of marketing for the Bedford, New Hampshire-based company.
The first Segway PT (originally referred to as a Human Transporter, or HT) was unveiled in late 2001 and started hitting the market in 2002, raising quite a stir. Initially, folks didn't know quite what to think about the battery-operated, two-wheeled machines swooping silently down the streets or sidewalks, their motion controlled almost imperceptibly by the rider. But the Segway soon caught on, says Kleber.
"That year we sold many of these devices to commercial accounts, private security and police departments," he recalls. "Our business is growing about 50 percent a year now, and the fastest growing segment has been law enforcement. The number of departments purchasing Segways has doubled over the last 18 months."
A new way to move
As of this writing, more than 150 law enforcement agencies worldwide use Segways for a variety of purposes, such as parking enforcement, patrol, providing crowd control and event security, and in community policing activities.
And they're traversing all manner of terrain — bike paths and trails, gravel and even sand — in all kinds of weather, says Kleber, addressing some of the common misperceptions folks have about the devices.
"There's perception that you can't use them in the rain or snow, but that's not true," he says. "You can use them in the rain and in light snow. And you can use them in the cold, the batteries are operable to 14 degrees Fahrenheit and we have cold-weather tires.
"People also think you can only ride them on pavement and that they can't go uphill," Kleber continues. "But we've got tourists riding them up and down the streets of San Francisco. The main thing you need is traction. Anywhere you have traction you can ride."
The device provides a range of benefits agencies find very attractive, says Kleber. One of the biggest is budgetary. Since the Segway runs on batteries, plugging into a normal outlet, agencies can noticeably reduce fuel expenses.
"It's very efficient," he says. "It gets the equivalent of 450 mpg if it was gas instead of electric. It costs less than buying a newspaper to charge it. And it's nice that it has zero emissions. This fits into the clean air goals that many cities have."
Segways can free up patrol vehicles for other functions, another cost savings. Also, officers who formerly walked their beat can now ride, allowing them to respond far more swiftly to emergencies and with much less fatigue. And because officers on a Segway are taller (their height is elevated by 8 inches) they have greater visibility — and are more visible themselves.
There's also great PR value in these machines, Kleber says.
"In the United States, I hear a lot about community policing," he says. "And of all the benefits, this is probably the top one. If you're in a car, you're not very approachable, but when you're on a Segway PT, you can move two to three times faster than walking speed, but still remain approachable. People come from all over to talk to you."
Changing with the times
There are significant differences between the first- and second-generation Segways, although they share many commonalities (see "Additional information" above for more product information). For example, they both employ the company's "dynamic stabilization" technology to move forward and back, and to perfectly balance the rider — even when the machine isn't motion.