Segway will stop making its iconic self-balancing scooter

The PT put Segway on the map, but the company didn't sell many of them.

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 13, 2013: Visitors to San Francisco, California, receive lessons on operating the Segway PT (personal transporter) from Electric Tour Company instructors before they take off on their own from the city's Golden Gate Park. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

It’s the end of an unusual era in transportation. Fast Company has learned that the Segway brand will stop producing the Segway PT (Personal Transporter) at its Bedford, New Hampshire plant, where most production has taken place, on July 15th. The move will result in 25 people being laid off, and reflects the long-term struggles of a product that was supposed to revolutionize transportation, but never really took off.

Inventor Dean Kamen launched the Segway PT in December 2001 with promises that it would revolutionize city transport — the self-balancing two-wheeler was supposed to cover the middle ground between walking and driving in a way that bikes couldn’t. However, it never sold in huge numbers, managing just 140,000 units in nearly 20 years. It ultimately found the most use among security teams (immortalized by Paul Blart: Mall Cop) and tourists. Kamen sold the company in 2009, and Chinese mobility firm Ninebot acquired it in 2015.

Company executives were quick to acknowledge that the basic concept had its issues. VP Tony Ho told FC that the classic Segway design was still seen as “very novel” and required a learning curve (as this writer can attest) that kick scooters and other forms of transportation never really did. And as Segway president Judie Cai added, the PT’s design may have been too durable for its own good. Its highly redundant nature may have been great for reliability and safety, but it also meant that a customer might not have to replace their transporter for decades.

Don’t mourn the loss of the PT too loudly. The Ninebot deal saw Segway become a major force in electric scooters (it says it has 70 percent of the worldwide market) and expand into more adventurous categories, including self-balancing skates and chairs. You could also argue that it ushered in electric urban mobility, whether it’s the flood of e-scooter services or clever boards like Onewheel’s models. As much as people ridiculed the Segway PT at times, it enabled many more ways of getting around town.

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