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Segway Recalls All Units Ever Shipped

I had heard that there was a Segway recall due to a programming error that needs to be updated, but I hadn't heard that they are recalling every unit ever sold.

"Segway is recalling all 23,500 of the self-balancing scooters it has shipped because of a software glitch that can make its wheels unexpectedly reverse direction, throwing off the rider -- and in at least one incident, break some teeth."
[ via Boing Boing ]

Whenever I hear about recalls I can't help but think back to Flight Club when Edward Norton's character describes his job as a "Recall Coordinator":

I'm a recall coordinator. My job is to apply the formula. It's a story problem.

A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 miles per hour. The rear differential locks up.

The car crushes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now: do we initiate a recall?

Take the number of vehicles in the field (A), multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement (C). A times B times C equals X...

If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.
[ source ]

Segway they can fix this problem with a software update, which means that the cost of this recall is relatively low compared to one involving a bad part, their cost will mainly be in man hours spent running the updates and paying for the shipping of units to and from its service centers.
The biggest cost might actually be in public perception of a Segway generally being dangerous to ride. I almost almost have to side to agree that they are dangerous to ride, if only for the unknown inner workings. When I think of a bicycle, I think of a very simple design of a human powered pedal system driving a chain that propels the bike to move forward -- combined with the rider's task of maintaining balance. If balance is lost, you can pretty much blame it on an error from the rider.
But with a Segway you have set code making the decisions in a dynamic situation. I write code. I think for this reason I trust the Segway's brain even less. I am not saying don't ride a Segway if you are given the change -- I sure as hell want to ride one (as I did near 6 years ago). While I am sure that Segway owners would argue that they feel perfectly safe on their units, the recall obviously shows that there are situations that were not originally programmed for.
I wonder how long until Segway units are Internet connected devices that can receive patches over the air?
1 Comment

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Sunday, October 1st 2006
Yes, but unlike the bicycle, which is a very simple and yes timetrusted method of getting from point A to point B, would we want out futuristic transport devices exposing all of their ugly secrets? Who wants to know that what's really inside those segways is a minituare nuclear energy propulsion source. All joking aside, I think I'd be more scared to see what goes on it that thing (if anything that dramatic) as someone is riding it. I'm not sure I'd be too comfortable either with transparent autos.

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