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Injury risk prompts recall of all Segways

Software glitch can cause scooter to tip backward suddenly. Owners encouraged to visit dealers for the fix. Photos: Segway rollouts, recalls and pratfalls

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read
Once touted as a landmark innovation in transportation, the Segway Personal Transporter has suffered another setback: The self-balancing scooter's parent company has recalled all of its currently available models because of a potentially dangerous software glitch.

After six Segway riders complained of head and wrist injuries, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Thursday in conjunction with Segway Inc. that all 23,500 of the vehicles sold between March 2002 (when they were first introduced) and mid-September 2006 are being voluntarily recalled.

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Video: Segway novice takes the test
Neha Tiwari hops on a Segway i180 for the first time. Watch her document the trials, tribulations and victories of learning how to work one of these bad boys.

According to the manufacturer, the "speed limiter" in a Segway can cause it to tip backward suddenly, throwing off the rider. The company has already devised a fix for this bug, and owners are encouraged to contact the company for information about obtaining the software upgrade.

The recall covers all Segways currently on the market--the i-series, p-series, e-series, XT, GT and i2 models. It does not cover the X2, which is slated for debut later this month.

The Segway has experienced a rather bumpy journey since its inception, when rumors of a revolutionary new consumer product began to surface. The design and function of the device, whose code names included "Ginger" and "IT," were shrouded in secrecy, and the machine drew praise from technology luminaries such as Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and Apple Computer chief Steve Jobs.

Segway gallery

But when the emission-free Segway was finally released, reactions were tepid. The company reshuffled management. In 2003, about a year and a half after the much-hyped "Personal Transporter" was released, all of the Segways that had been sold at that point--some 6,000 machines--were recalled because of complaints of a power glitch that caused riders to fall off.

Since then, the Segway--priced between $4,000 and $5,500--has gained a reputation as a geeky novelty toy. Funny Segway videos have gained a solid footing on YouTube. A quirky game of Segway polo was among the notable events at April's Maker Faire, the hacker crafts showcase held in San Mateo, Calif., where Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was featured among the mallet-wielding competitors.

There's no word yet as to whether one of the six injury reports that led to the recall came from socialite Paris Hilton, who tried to use a Segway to make floor-mopping easier on her TV show "The Simple Life" and promptly toppled over.