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March 2005 Chat with Doug Field

Our seventh moderated chat was with with Doug Field, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Design & Engineering for Segway Inc.

    Date: Wednesday, March 23, 2005
    Time: 7:00 - 8:00 pm ET (4:00 - 5:00 pm PT)

    Participants: Doug Field and the Segway HT community
    Moderated by: John Grohol ( Webmaster)

The following is an edited transcript of the chat provided

John_Grohol: Hi folks and welcome to tonight’s chat
event brought to you by Segway and SegwayChat.

John_Grohol: Tonight’s event is hosted with Segway’s
Chief Technology Officer and VP of Design and Engineering,
Doug Field.
John_Grohol: He’s here tonight to answer your questions
regarding the new line-up of Segway HTs, the i180, the Segway
XT and the Segway GT, as well as Segway’s new lithium-ion
batteries being rolled out in all of these new models.
John_Grohol: This is the second time Doug joins us for a live
chat event. Welcome Doug!

Doug_Field: Thanks, good to be here.

John_Grohol: This chat is moderated. After you type in your
question, it is automatically forwarded to the moderator (me!)
for consideration.

John_Grohol: Questions are generally (but not always) answered
in the order received. Please be patient, as it may take some
time before your question is answered. No need to ask it again.
We’re sorry, but we can’t answer every question
asked in the chat.
John_Grohol: So ask away!!

Why wasn’t the charging light changed to above the cord?
I imagine the reason is that this component was not changed
from old to new models, but can you confirm this?

Doug_Field: Yes, like all engineering projects you have to
choose your battles. For tooling, inventory, and regulatory
reasons (the charge input gets a lot of regulatory attention),
we looked forward to our future models instead.

When will the new i 180s be in dealerships?

Doug_Field: We’re getting in the last of the parts as we
Doug_Field: we have some new suppliers that aren’t used to
our standards =)
Doug_Field: But I believe you will be able to seem them in
about 3 weeks.
Doug_Field: "see" them.

Will the new batteries require a different kind of "handling",
e.g. exercising or periodic total discharge?

Doug_Field: The lithium-ion cells generally ask a lot less
of the user than Nickel-based chemistries.
Doug_Field: The cells take a LONG time to discharge, so you
can store them for a while without damage.
Doug_Field: On top of that, our new battery has 23 individual
balancing circuits which work to bring the pack into balance
on every charge.
Doug_Field: It’s going to be one hell of a battery.

What spurs the ideas that brings out the variants of the

Doug_Field: There are several things we do.

Doug_Field: First, we try to pay attention to what the market,
and existing customers, are asking for.
Doug_Field: Hence range as a top priority.
Doug_Field: But we also look at the ideas generated during
the "frog kissing" that goes on constantly at Segway.
Doug_Field: That’s where some of the biggest leaps come from.
Doug_Field: Our dealers are also a big help in interpreting
the market.

I am very happy with v11 of the software and have concerns
going to v12. Now I read that a software upgrade will be needed
for use with the Lithium batteries. Two questions about this:

What version of software will this be, and second what
are the changes that are in it? Performance changes? Will
I be disappointed?

Doug_Field: Version 14.0 will recognize either lithium-ion
packs or NiMH and respond accordingly.
Doug_Field: Previous versions will reject the new battery.
Doug_Field: There are no changes between 12.1 and 14.0 that
would lead to performance differences.
Doug_Field: But you might well notice improved performance,
such as the speed at which you can climb a hill, with the
new batteries.

Doug_Field: We really want you safe and would like you to
upgrade, of course. I would suggest you ride a 14.0 with lithium-ion
if you can.
Doug_Field: I think you’ll be very happy with the performance.

The GT appears to have a new function associated with
the key. Has the internal architecture of the key changed?
Can you please describe this new function?

Doug_Field: As for the "golf" key, 14.0 now recognizes
some bits in the iButtons that were ignored in the past.
Doug_Field: If you start up a 14.0 with an old key, the machine
will time out in 60 seconds just like now.

Doug_Field: "New" keys have a few bits flipped to
change the timeout to longer (long enough for the slowest
of golfers to take their swing).

Is the new more-minimal fender design just a matter of
style, or is there an interesting technical story behind it?

Doug_Field: Well, we’ve wanted for a long time to do unique
left and right fenders.
Doug_Field: The most spray protection occurs in the rear half
of the fender. If you have to share fenders on both sides,
then it covers in front but doesn’t really add any spray protection.
Doug_Field: So we thought it would really make the machine
look great to use a two-piece fender and put the spray protection
right where it works, and let you see that beautiful Michelin

Doug_Field: You’ll also avoid banging the fender as much on
stairs and follow mode. Amazingly enough, we found, in testing,
the spray protection to be as good or even better than today.

Doug, is the heat shed from the new batteries different
(higher, lower) than the NiMH system?

Do the lithium batteries require as much cool-down time
before charging?

Doug_Field: In general the new batteries are much less sensitive
to temperature than the NiMH packs.
Doug_Field: There’s not likely much difference in the heat
generated in the pack, but since the internal resistance is
lower, it’s probably a bit cooler.
Doug_Field: In charging, the concern on NiMH is that hot cells
don’t accept charge well. A hot battery is much more likely
to end up "unbalanced" as a result-some cells hotter
than others.

Doug_Field: The balancing circuit, as well as the chemistry,
should mean less cool-down time. But as a rule: charge cool;
discharge warm. It’s the best way to get the most from your

Doug, what is the future potential for the new batteries
going on airplanes? Is there anything we can do to help?

Doug_Field: Good question.
Doug_Field: As you know, lithium-ion batteries have gotten
a reputation for going boom.
Doug_Field: The Valence phosphate chemistry is in a different
zip code with respect to this issue.
Doug_Field: Unfortunately, it’s so new that there are no special
dispensations for them. Lithium-ion is lithium-ion. The rules
for air travel are based on an "equivalent total lithium
content" (which is why laptops and cell phones are OK),
but a pack for the HT is much above that.

Doug_Field: Two things we can do: 1) Help make Valence successful
so this technology is in more and more products; 2) Help everyone
you talk to understand that lithium ion PHOSPHATE chemistry
is dramatically safer than lithium ion with Manganese or Cobalt
Oxide (which is what all your cell phones and laptops contain).

Have you found in problems with clearance on the new batteries?

Doug_Field: Personally, no. Today I took a long ride on the
XT over some pretty amazing terrain, and it was rarely an
issue. The battery can take occasional ground out; just make
sure you don’t pick the wheels up off the ground!

Will the new XT have the same software? How about riding
on the trail? What happens when the machine comes off the

Doug_Field: The XT has unique software:
Doug_Field: It is tuned for the diameter, track width, and
inertia of the new tires. This changes everything from the
inertial estimation (figuring out where "up" is)
to traction control.

Doug_Field: The controls guys also tweaked it based on how
we expect people to use the XT differently than other HT’s.
Doug_Field: The machine is amazingly capable AND comfortable
on trails. But all bets are off when you leave the ground
Doug_Field: Seriously, leaving the ground looks to the machine
just like sheer ice. So traction control will engage and attempt
to "wait" until you’ve hooked back up.

What other engineering changes can we look for in the
i180? New power connectors? Changes in the mat? In the control
stick? Etc.

Doug_Field: We kept the i180 pretty stable, largely because
we’ve developed so much history on the reliability and durability
of that platform.

Doug_Field: So, besides the fender and wheel, which are obviously
re-tooled, and some changes to beef up the kickstand, the
rest are things like splashes of color.

Doug, is there any concern at LLC that if the XT is used
on the sidewalk it may negatively impact acceptance?

Doug_Field: Sure. In the same way that many manufacturers
worry about SUV’s effect in collision with small cars.
Doug_Field: Unlike all previous HT models, we did NOT design
the XT for the sidewalk. It’s too wide for that. We try to
make that clear throughout the user materials, and try to
also let our dealers know that. And if it’s primarily sidewalk
riding you’re doing, it’s silly to do it on an XT because
you’ll get much less range.
Doug_Field: Width is the primary issue (as well as perception).
The XT has all the safety functions and features we put in
every HT.

The $64,000 Question. Are there plans for an XT - Centaur

I’ve had a lot of questions (most recently this morning)
about the Centaur. Any news?

Doug_Field: Centaur, centaur…
Doug_Field: As you know we like this machine a lot.
Doug_Field: We showed it to our dealers to get reactions and
see how it would do in the US market.
Doug_Field: But the really interesting applications might
be in the NEV category here, and as urban transportation in
Europe. Quads are already getting street tires, mirrors, and
lights and showing up on Euro streets.
Doug_Field: The point is that we need to narrow the target
market down, and also need to find a partner. Our plant is
great at precision assembly, programming, and QC. But we don’t
weld and paint.

Doug_Field: Believe me, I want the Centaur!

John_Grohol: We’re at about the halfway point in
tonight’s chat. Thank you all for coming out to be with
us this evening… We’re chatting tonight with Doug Field,
Segway’s CTO and VP of Design and Engineering. Feel free
to ask your questions of Doug, they’re generally answered
in the order received (if appropriate for this chat).

Doug, when will you leak the OS code for the HT so we
can get the thing to go faster than 12.5 mph

Doug_Field: I’m trying to think of a clever answer.
Doug_Field: But it’s just not gonna happen!

Doug_Field: For both IP (intellectual property) and sidewalk
access reasons.

So now we have more "juice" does that mean that
the possibility exists that we can tap off the battery to
power external lights or other gear? Will there ever be a
supported source for electricity?

Are there considerations for a future level of options
on the upcomming models? Things like power ports or data terminals
for the technical minded among us.

Doug_Field: You guys have the memory of elephants… I remember
using the "we don’t want to reduce range" excuse
for power ports a long time ago…

Doug_Field: Unfortunately, it’s not like putting a cigarette
lighter in car. Here’s why:
Doug_Field: Our system runs at 72V so we’d have to get it
down to 12V with some dedicated hardware.
Doug_Field: Next we’d have to have a well sealed setup that
did not allow water to screw up the machine.
Doug_Field: Lastly, it would have to be immune to the thosands
of volts you can generate when you walk around in sock feet
in the winter.
Doug_Field: Guys who can make balancing machines can certainly
figure this out, but first we hear you guys asking for range,
cost, …
Doug_Field: So that’s where we’re focusing. If we start to
see a large market developing that needs this feature, we’d
push hard to get it in.

Doug_Field: Same with lights-12V

Are there program upgrade clinics planned for the segfests
this year?

Doug_Field: Yes all Segfests will have free upgrade stations
so you can get 14.0 and be ready for those new battery packs!

(Can’t believe I’m actually in the presence of Doug Field
- cool!). I’d love to know if there are any plans to up efforts
in Europe (especially the UK) with the release of the new

Doug_Field: Thanks. Stop by and say hello in person sometime.
Europe is increasing in focus a lot. The conditions in Europe-congestion,
pollution, urban transportation-are much more acute than
in the US.
Doug_Field: Our new VP of International, Claude LeBlond, is
expanding quickly but carefully, and we’re expecting great
things from him. We’re even talking about designing a machine
specifically for Europe sometime in the future.

Doug_Field: Italy in particular is a very exciting and growing

Mr. Norrod mentioned something about finding new markets
for your core technologies. Comments?

Doug_Field: I think you’ve already seen two good examples
of this-the Centaur and the RMP (robotic mobility platform).
If you look at our core strength as "small, highly intelligent,
electric transportation" the applications are almost

John_Grohol: The chat transcript of tonight’s entire chat
will be available tomorrow on (in the "Connect/Chats"
section) as well as on

Do you think the Segway will ever shift from a stick with
wheels design into something more iconic?

Doug_Field: "Iconic", huh?
Doug_Field: The current design was intended to play itself
down; almost disappear into the background, and NOT look vehicular.
Doug_Field: As markets emerge we’ll start to more directly
design the machines to appeal to people in those markets.
Doug_Field: This summer we turned our ID groups loose to see
what they could come up with in the absence of constraints.
It’s amazing-it was shown in "Made in America"-although
unfortunately referred to as "next year’s model"
(it’s not).

Doug_Field: But it shows how we’re thinking about future products.

Doug, Iknow a lot of us were tuned in to the Made in America
involving the HT - and while we understand you can’t say much
about it - how is one supposed to ride that concept model?

Doug_Field: On that one, it would be pretty tough because
it’s made of clay and foam. :-)
Doug_Field: But you can think about the handlebars on that
one more like a bike frame-going between your legs and becoming
that much more integrated with you.

If making it to a SegwayFest is not in the works for
some of us … how else can we get the upgrade to v14?

Doug_Field: We are working to get the dealers upgrade tools
which they will rotate through different locations. So soon
you should be able to sign up with the closest dealer and
he’ll upgrade you as soon as he’s got the equipment. You can
also stop by the plant if you’re in the Northeast, or as a
last resort, box up your Power Base and send it to us…

I got a strange wheel and gearbox at the V1 sale: it
has the bolt hole slightly offset from center on the wheel,
and in the "female" part of the gearbox. What was
this for?

Doug_Field: That was a stupid idea I had for the gearbox
Doug_Field: We wanted to have a single fastener, but make
sure if it came loose the wheel wouldn’t spin freely causing
loss of balance.
Doug_Field: The hex-and-taper turned out to be a much better
way to do this.

All of the current models seem to be based on the i167
core design, will we see the p series developed as well?

Doug_Field: Great question.
Doug_Field: It is natural for a company to update first that
part of the product line which accounts for the most volume.
Doug_Field: And in our current markets, that’s the i Series.
Doug_Field: Internally, we’ve made a commitment to keep the
Doug_Field: And with the growing focus on international markets,
it’s now getting a lot more attention on our product roadmap.
As you know, it’s not just a smaller cheaper i; it can go
places and do things that are unique-cars, public transportation,
etc. For urban transportation, the p is the machine!

John_Grohol: Just a few minutes left here in tonight’s
chat. So if you have any last-minute questions for Doug, now’s
the time to ask them! As a reminder, tonight’s chat transcript
will be available tomorrow on, as well as

Traveling more than a couple miles on a Segway requires
a lot of time. Is there any chance Segway or some future variant
will be any faster?

Doug_Field: Not in the "HT" segment-12.5 mph/20
kph is the right maximum speed for the sidewalk. If higher
speed products come out of the company in the future (like,
for example, the Centaur), they will be for over-the-road
transport or off-road.

We know that the HT is worth every penny of its price.
How do you respond to price complainers?

Doug_Field: I sometimes think that the design of the machine
is so clean and sleek, the user interface so simple, that
it’s easy to take for granted everything that’s going on inside
of it.
Doug_Field: So I’d say you ask Doug Field to send you a nice
exploded view of the machine that you can keep on your laptop
or hanging on the wall so you can show people the level of
technology and engineering that’s hidden inside.

Sorry if the question has been asked already but are
there plans for lithium-ion batteries for the P model?

Doug_Field: Not asked-but good q.
Doug_Field: In the i Series the primary mission was extending
range, especially for people like commercial customers (like
police) who are on the machine for extended periods.
Doug_Field: If the "p" is about urban transportation,
we’d probably look at it a little differently-maybe lithium-ion
is to reduce weight and size.

Doug_Field: But right now for most urban uses the batteries
do pretty well, and it’s a machine that’s that much more likely
to fly by air as your carry on…
Doug_Field: Short answer: not in the very near future.

Are the gearboxes made now in New Hampshire instead of
outsourced? Are they better or just more convenient for you?

Doug_Field: They are indeed made in New Hampshire, inside
our plant.
Doug_Field: They are the same high quality we’ve had all along.
Doug_Field: It’s not more convenient, but our supplier for
them went out of business. We’ve learned a lot about making
gearboxes as a result, and that’ll come in handy for future

What is the next big breakthrough? You can tell us. We
will keep it under our hats.

Doug_Field: The original HT is a hard act to follow. And,
as Dean says, if we told you we’d have to kill you. But it’s
company policy not to kill or threaten to kill our customers
since they pay our salaries.
Doug_Field: We’ll try to live up to your expectations. You
guys are demanding, but incredibly loyal-I wouldn’t trade
our customer base for any other…

John_Grohol: Just a quick note, in case you hadn’t
realized it, but the new Segway HT i180, Segway XT and Segway
GT information can be found on our website,

John_Grohol: I’d like to thank Doug for taking the
time to join us for this evening’s interesting chat,
it’s been a lot of fun (and I always learn something
new!). And thank you all for joining us as well and asking
a lot of interesting, cool questions.

Doug_Field: Thank you all for supporting our company and
making it possible for my team to continue having the great
jobs we do!

John_Grohol: As a reminder, tonight’s chat transcript
will be available tomorrow on, as well as

John_Grohol: Thank you and good night!

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