How Segways Work

This beginner's course on the operation of the Segway will explain the basics.

The Segway Human Transporter is a revolutionary product moving into the personal lives and world's businesses creating a more productive and versatile mode of transportation. The Segway and its self-balancing system is compact, powerful, rechargeable and fun. It gives the user the ability to move faster and carry more - an efficient benefit to anyone.

The Segway Human Transporter works through technology called dynamic stabilization. Dynamic stabilization works similarly to its model - a person's own sense of balance. People use their inner ear, eyes, muscles, and a brain to keep their body balanced. The Segway uses solid-state gyroscopes, tilt sensors, high-speed microprocessors, and powerful electric motors to keep its balance. Working together these dynamic stabilization components sense the user's center of gravity, instantaneously assess the information and make adjustments to the Segway at one hundred times per second. Thus, the Segway balances itself whether moving, carrying a heavy load, maneuvering in tight spaces, or standing still.

The operation of the Segway, after the first try, is natural, intuitive and simple. The Segway becomes an extension of the user as it responds to the changes of the person's center of gravity. There are no brakes and no acceleration pedal. The two wheels, the frame, mechanics and steering grip are the components. To operate, a user simply leans forward and the Segway will move forward, straighten up and it will stop. Lean back and the Segway will move backwards, straighten up and it will stop. To turn, rotate the steering grip in the direction needed. The terrain isn't a worry either, as long as there is traction to grip the wheels of the Segway, it will operate and move as the user sees fit.

The dynamic stabilization is the new and amazing technology that makes the Segway a hit. The basis for successful operation is to have the Segway function much like the human body. The wheels are legs, a motor works as muscles, microprocessors function as a brain and a set of tilt sensors (gyroscopes) work as an inner-ear balancing agent.

This inner-ear balancing agent is the key to the Segway and is accomplished with the use of five special gyroscopes called sold-state angular rate sensors. Only three are really needed to detect forward, backward and side-to-side motion, but the extra two add stability and reliability to the Segway.

A gyroscope is a spinning wheel inside a frame. A spinning object resists change to its rotation - it doesn't want to stop spinning and it doesn't want to move. Apply force to a spinning wheel and it takes that force into the spin and moves it around the front of the wheel. It then continues to move that force to the back of the wheel. This constant moving of an applied force balances the spin so it won't stop and the wheel won't move it's position. However, the frame that surrounds a gyroscope will move when force is applied. This measurement of movement, how close or far away the frame is to the spinning wheel is what is needed for the Segway to detect what way it should move.

A typical gyroscope is cumbersome and difficult to maintain so the Segway uses the solid-state angular rate sensor instead. This sensor is constructed of a tiny spinning silicon plate (rather than a wheel) mounted on a frame. An electric current is applied to the plate, which vibrates the silicon particles on the plate. The vibration wave from the plate to the frame (how far away or close the vibration is from plate to frame) is the measurement used to move the Segway. When pressure is applied (a person leaning forward) the silicon particles move across the plate. This changes the vibration wave. The vibration wave movement, no matter how small, is detected by a cluster of microprocessors (the brain), which are set on two separate circuit boards. The microprocessors comprise of about three times the power of a typical computer. This much power is needed so the Segway can make extremely precise adjustments to keep from falling over. Two circuit boards are needed in case one fails, the other can take control, notify the rider of a problem and shutdown gracefully.

The microprocessors take the movement information and run it through an advanced piece of software that controls the Segway. The software program monitors all of the stability information coming from the gyroscopic sensors and adjusts the speed of the electric motors in response. The electric motors, powered by a pair of rechargeable batteries, then turn each of the wheels and the Segway and user move.

This new transportation system is simple to use but does consist of a complex engineering marvel. The above is a beginner course explanation of how the Segway works. Be certain to check the Segway Internet site and/or local dealers for a thorough and detailed explanation. Why not go try it for yourself and ponder the future possibilities.

© High Speed Ventures 2011