In 2002, Segway unleashed its own “device of the future”: the Segway PT. It wasn’t self-driving, but it was self-balancing. It was going to change personal transportation as we knew it — especially for mall cops and tour groups.
Nearly 20 years later, Segway is discontinuing its classic electric device. As of July 15 the iconic device will retire, along with two other Segway products. Instead, the company is focusing on its booming e-scooter business. In a release from Tuesday, Segway explained “The Segway PT, once our signature vehicle, last year accounted for less than 1.5 [percent] of the company’s revenue.”
With less than a month until the awkward two-wheeled device fades away, let’s reflect on the best fail videos, memes, and movie moments that made up the Segway’s life.
Here is the Segway HT, as it was originally known, (short for Human Transporter) before it became the Personal Transporter, at its debut in New York City with inventor Dean Kamen in 2001.
Several years later, British entrepreneur James Heselden bought Segway, the company. He sadly died in 2010 in a manner a comedy writers’ room could only dream up: on a Segway PT. His untimely death on the unwieldy contraption led to memes about self-owns and Segway fails and plenty of puns about segueing to heaven.
Even though he rode off forever, Segways continued to make a splash.
The Google co-founders had a go with one back in 2004. Hordes of tourists could be forever spotted gliding along Santa Monica beach paths, through San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, or along Paris’ Eiffel Tower and throughout other parts of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Security guards and real-life mall cops were common Segway users, rolling around their patrol turf.
In pop culture, Segway has had its moments.
Kevin James is one of the better-known Segway users. The 2009 movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop (and its 2015 sequel Mall Cop 2) helped popularize the vehicle. A 2009 review of the film called the Segway the best part of the movie.
“James’ balletic mastery of the vehicle for this role…is easily the best thing about Mall Cop,” the reviewer writes. “The Segway, a pretty good sight gag by itself, becomes an extension of the portly Blart’s persona —underestimated, able to take a licking and keep on ticketing.”
TV’s Arrested Development series naturally included the Segway as a running gag with G.O.B. using the balancing scooter to get around.
No doubt Segways have been widely mocked over the years. But you can’t discount their influence on personal transport vehicles, from electric unicycles to Onewheels, to the now-defunct hoverboards. It’s not surprising that the company behind one of the first widely known rechargeable vehicles is now the main supplier of electric scooters for companies like Ford’s Spin and Lyft. Chinese robotics company Ninebot acquired Segway in 2015.
The Segway legacy will likely continue for tour groups and mall cops until the wheels literally come off. In the press release announcing the retirement, the company said, “They are an extremely durable vehicle.” Segways have been known to last for more than 10 years.
Even if the Segway PT’s time is ending, Segway still has the WALL-E-inspired La-Z-Boy self-balancing chair of the future. There will be many more viral videos.