Friday, April 10, 2009

PUMA has two wheels but zero appeal

On the theory that anything with two wheels is fair game for a motorcycle blog, here's my opinion of the experimental General Motors and Segway PUMA.

Do I have to tell you what that opinion is? I bet you can guess.

First let me acknowledge that the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility whatchamacallit is a wonder. It was unveiled April 7 and is being shown at the New York auto show.

It could bring new all-weather mobility to people who can't handle or find space to store a car. I am not going to make the mistake of assuming that this phone booth on wheels is what the final product would look like, either.

It could be that the 35-mph PUMA will emerge one day from the factory lithe and sexy. I still don't want one.

Like the pogo-stick on wheels Segway, the PUMA relies on electronics for much -- for balance for starters. But the PUMA goes beyond that, with Segway envisioning accident avoidance capability. Thanks to global positioning and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, the PUMA will know where the threats are and avoid them.

Seat belts, one press account noted, will be fitted for "comfort purposes" only. You won't need air bags, since you can't crash.

My motorcycle does not have seat belts and it requires its rider not only to balance but to discover and react to threats through all 360 degrees. I can crash.

As fun and involving and sexy as the PUMA may one day be, it can not ever match my motorcycle for involvement. In fact, the press account promised "autonomous driving and parking."

The PUMA can not only put itself in a parking place, it can drive itself across town to get there! Maybe.

The PUMA is a tremendous technological stride and it could be better for cities and the environment than packs of carbon belching motorcycles. Perhaps dicing with taxicabs on the streets of Manhattan inside a rolling phone booth will raise the blood pressure and mental alertness.

But I just don't think it will get me going in the morning -- not the way matching a pushrod motor, Albion transmission, drum brakes and chain drive to a twisty road can.


  1. Who would have thought that America would come to this: riding motorized wheelchairs equals the exciting new transport of the future. If we're going to two wheels, I'll stick with my Enfield. Let's hope motorbikes don't become outlawed.

  2. Dan from Bullet Mania4/13/2009

    So they say it can't crash!?!?!?
    Famous last words, what was the name of that unsinkable ship, oh yes it was The Titanic.

  3. I had the same thought!


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