The Scooter Revolution

Way back in 2001 the Segway was announced by inventor Dean Kamen. A technological offshoot of his iBot—a six-wheeled, robotic wheelchair that could ascend stairs and stand a person upright—it was hyped by many thought leaders at the time as the device that would change the way cities were built. He built it, but no one came. Nobody wanted to spend $6000 to look dorky riding down the beach path (save for a few tourists who rent them) or street. A few businesses started up with rentals, and the U.S. Post Office originally ran a pilot program with them for letter carriers, but that was it. Kamen ultimately sold the business, long before the term “last-mile mobility” had been coined.

Then along came the hoverboard. It looked promising, as kids adopted them quickly, then even septuagenarians started using them. They were easy to master and relatively safe to ride. As prices dropped, so did the quality of the 18650 lithium-ion cells that were used to make them. With sketchy batteries and wiring that was surely not up to code, many of them spontaneously burst into flames. They were banned in 2016 by the U.S. International Trade Commission, ironically not for the fire hazard, but for the infringement of patents owned by, you guessed it, Segway.


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