Jimi Heselden, 62, appears to have lost control of an off-road version of his electric two-wheeled Segway scooter and was tragically killed, when the device rode off a cliff top in West Yorkshire, yesterday.
Although Heselden wasn’t the inventor of the Segway scooter, he bought the New Hampshire based business last December.
His, was a true rags to riches story, which began as a coal miner and included the infamous UK mine closures in the 1980s that put he, and thousands of other miners, out of a job.
Heselden had extensive experience in coalmine blast methods and formed his company Hesco Bastion, which specialised in the manufacture of protective barriers.
The business won numerous defence contracts over the years, and Jimi was said to have been worth close to AUD$300 million, but was also a staunch supporter of charities and a major contributor to a fund that assists injured soldiers.
The Segway was first unveiled in 2001, while the first production models were rolled out in 2002. The product has been featured in various Hollywood movies, including the recent comedy, “Mall Cop”, but has yet to gain any major traction beyond niche markets such as the police, mall security, warehouses and some university campuses.
That said, from sales as low as 6000 units in 2003, over 50,000 Segways have been sold to date, with a 12 percent increase in sales this year alone.
Sales of the Segway are largely restricted due to them being banned from Sidewalks and pavements in many countries, except in the United States, which largely permits its use.
It’s an entirely different story in Australia, or at least in NSW, where the RTA has banned the Segway on both roads and footpaths. Why are we not surprised?
For those unfamiliar with the device, the Segway is a self-balancing electric vehicle, which can be charged using household current. Balance, is provided by two computers running proprietary software, in concert with dual tilt sensors and five gyroscopes.
Even Stirling Moss is an accomplished Segway rider. Top speed of the Segway i-Series is just over 20km/h, while each servo motor produces 1.5 kW of power. On a fully charged lithium-ion battery, the Segawy has a range of up to 40 kilometres, depending on the type of terrain and several other factors relating to the battery itself.
To go forwards or backwards, the rider simply leans forwards or backwards, while speed depends on how far you lean in those directions.
The Segway can also stay upright and balanced in one place, as it is built to mirror human motion.
If it ever becomes legal to ride a Segway on public roads or sidewalks in NSW, in the interest of a greener world, then CarAdvice would be more than happy to road test the fleet, but well away from any cliff faces.