- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2006

Segway Inc. recalled all of its 23,500 personal transporters yesterday to fix a software glitch that can cause the machine to suddenly reverse direction.

“When we identified this condition, we notified the [U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission] and immediately began working on a software upgrade to address the issue,” said Jim Norrod, chief executive officer of the Bedford, N.H., company.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is cooperating with Segway on the voluntary recall, said consumers should stop using the scooters immediately. The recall applies to all models.

According to Segway, the machines can suddenly reverse direction if the rider leans back to slow down, gets off the Segway and gets right back on it. Six head and wrist injuries have been reported.

The Associated Press reported that the injuries involved broken teeth, a broken wrist and facial injuries that required surgery.

Segway dealer Rep Burks, president of Capital Segway on I Street Northwest, said he has never encountered the problem.

“Segway engineers found a small glitch if the machine is used way outside the parameters of the intended use,” he said.

Mr. Burks said that the software upgrade takes a few minutes and that his dealership will repair any Segway. The upgrade is free, and Segway will pay to ship the scooter round trip to its facilities if a dealer is not available.

Yesterday’s recall was the second for the scooters, which went on sale in 2002 and sell for about $4,000 to $5,000. A 2003 recall involved a problem that could have caused riders to fall off the Segway when the battery died.

Tonia Edwards — owner of Segs and the City, a Baltimore company that conducts tours in Baltimore and the District, and Segway of Baltimore dealership — has heard only one report of Segways jerking into reverse.

She said that when a rider starts to go too fast, the Segway platform begins to tilt, warning the rider to lean back to slow down. Most riders respond appropriately, but one person wanted to test how fast the Segway could go and the platform leaned to nearly a 20-degree angle, making it nearly impossible to keep holding onto the Segway, she said.

The person was not injured when the Segway suddenly went into reverse, she said.

Segs and the City owns about 35 scooters and did not do any tours yesterday, largely because of rainy weather but also because of the warning against operating the scooters.

The D.C. branch of City Segway Tours has about 35 Segways and planned to get them repaired yesterday afternoon or this morning, said assistant manager Blair Brogan.

“We’re full speed ahead and getting them fixed,” she said. “It’s not affecting us in any way.”

City Segway Tours held its three scheduled tours yesterday, Ms. Brogan said, adding that the company has never had the problem that sparked the recall.

Segways are also popular with police departments, which use the machines for patrols.

The Metropolitan Police Department suspended use of its 10 Segways yesterday until they can be fixed, spokesman Kevin Morison said.

“We’re working with our vendor to complete that as quickly as possible,” he said.

The Maryland Transportation Authority Police, which patrols Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, also uses the scooters.

The U.S. Park Police has used Segways in the past, but no longer does, a spokesman said yesterday.

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