Segway Gets Officers Moving on Two Wheels

Segway Inc. has continued its courting of the law enforcement market with the launch of the company's next generation.

Carla Vallone, communications manager for Segway explains that designed into the device are five solid-state gyroscopes, 10 microprocessors and two motors that monitor a rider's center of gravity 100 times a second and make the adjustments necessary to maintain the user's balance. This dynamic stabilization technology results in a very intuitive ride, Vallone says.

However, the earlier version allowed riders to control forward and backward motion by leaning in the desired direction. When they wanted to go left, right or in a circle they had to turn a handle grip. The new generation i2 and x2 Segways have incorporated new "LeanSteer" technology into the machines, eliminating the hand grip altogether. Now, riders simply have to lean in whatever direction they want to travel, making the experience even more intuitive.

"Technology progresses and there was the opportunity to make this change and improvement," says Kleber. "We like to say the best user interface is no interface at all."

Additionally, he continues, the old handlebar was fixed to the base, while the new one pivots at the base, providing a smoother ride over bumps and bumpy terrain.

Officer Clyde Heyliger is with the Maryland Transportation Authority police and has been patrolling the airport terminal for over six years now. The first four were spent walking the huge terminal; the last two years he's used a Segway.

"When we first got them, we had some mixed feelings," he recalls. "A lot of the officers wanted bikes, and they thought the Segway looked kind of silly. But once they tried it, they liked it. With the Segway we're able to respond much faster, help out the other officers faster and cover the airport faster. Plus, I think a lot of people would rather see us riding Segways than see a lot of officers running at them."

He tried out the Segway i2 for a couple of hours and immediately noticed the differences.

"The new one is easier to maneuver because you can lean, rather than turn the grip," Heyliger says. "It's a lot easier to work with. And, the rubber grip used to get worn out — we use them 24/7, 360 days a year — and with the new one you don't have to worry about this."

Heyliger also likes the wireless InfoKey; another technological advancement. The old model relied on different keys for different speeds, says Kleber. Moving from one speed to the next required the rider to step down, turn off the machine and insert the desired key. The new InfoKey allows you to preset the speed, or, if a change is desired once in motion, you simply have to stop, step off the machine and set the speed, without having to turn it off or contend with multiple keys.

The InfoKey (each is uniquely programmed to work with only one specific Segway) also acts as an information center, providing real-time readouts on speed, mileage, battery life and system performance, says Kleber. The InfoKey also lets users activate a security system that will lock the wheels and sound an alarm should the Segway be moved. And if you're within 30 to 50 feet of the machine, you'll get a visual notification on the InfoKey as well.

The right Segway for the job

The Segway i2 is best-suited for urban policing — although it can do some off-road, says Kleber. It can be outfitted with the i2 Police package that includes a handlebar bag, an accessory bar for lights and sirens, side cargo supports (these also double as lift handles) and plates, locking hard cases, decal kits so departments can affix reflexive police labels and other insignia, comfort mats and LED taillight.

The Segway x2 is designed for outdoor environments such as parks, recreation areas, campuses and trails. Its all-terrain tires can even traverse sand for beach patrols. It's wider than the i2, says Kleber, so if an agency is primarily urban, the x2 would probably take up too much space for city work. However, he adds, if an officer is 100-percent outdoors, go with this one.

It can be equipped with the x2 Police package that includes a handlebar bag, an accessory bar for lights and sirens, LED taillights, reflective labels and two universal cargo plates and cargo frames that double as lift handles.

As for learning how to ride these machines, training on the basics — and this is provided by the dealer — takes about 45 minutes, says Kleber. However, Segway is investigating creating a training program specifically for law enforcement. Some of the areas covered would include patrolling techniques, crowd control and how to respond to emergencies — topics agencies have expressed interest in.

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