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2 wheels for GM, Segway

Associated Press

A solution to the world’s urban transportation problems could lie in two wheels, not four, according to executives of General Motors Corp. and Segway Inc.

The companies plan to announce today that they are developing a two-wheeled, two-seat electric vehicle designed to be a safe, inexpensive and clean alternative to traditional cars for cities across the world.

The companies said their project, dubbed PUMA, for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, would include a communications network allowing vehicles to interact with one another to regulate traffic flow and prevent crashes.

The 300-pound prototype runs on a lithium-ion battery and dual electric motors and employs balancing technology found in Segway’s two-wheeled personal transportation machines. The vehicle is designed to go as fast as 35 mph and run 35 miles on a single charge.

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The firms didn’t release a production timeline or a projected cost for the vehicle but said that ideally its total operating cost -- including purchase price, insurance, maintenance and fuel -- would be one-fourth to one-third that of the typical traditional vehicle.

Because it would be designed to automatically avoid obstacles such as pedestrians and other cars, the PUMA vehicle would not need air bags and would have safety belts for “comfort purposes” only, said Larry Burns, GM’s vice president of research, development and strategic planning.

The announcement comes at a time when GM’s future is hanging by a thread despite billions of dollars in federal aid. The company is attempting a vast restructuring that may yet lead to a filing for bankruptcy protection.

But Burns contended that some of the most revolutionary ideas have been born out of tough economic times.

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“The next two months, and really 2009, is all about the reinvention of General Motors,” he said.


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