U.S. President Barack Obamas auto task force sent General Motors back to drawing board late last month to come up with another restructuring plan, with an emphasis on developing fuel-efficient vehicles.
Today, when GM is reportedly preparing plans for a bankruptcy filing, the company unveiled Project P.U.M.A.(Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), a partnership with Segway to develop an electric, two-wheeled, two-seat vehicle. Larry Burns, GMs vice-president of research and development and strategic planning, appearedon the Today Show this morning to proclaim, What were doing is reinventing the automobile.
Ready? The future, apparently:
The vehicle can speed along at 56 km/h and travel 56 kilometres without motorists needing to recharge its lithium-ion battery. It will eventually incorporate technology to drive itself and avoid crashing into things. According to the press release, the vehicle “also enables design creativity, fashion, fun and social networking. Whatever that means.
Segways original two-wheeled device was supposed to revolutionize personal transportation when it was introduced in 2001, but seems only to have succeeded in making police officers and security guards look silly, not to mention being the butt of Weird Al jokes.
P.U.M.A., despite incorporating some neat technology, seems doomed to a similar fate. Weaning North Americans off bulky gas-guzzlers for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles is difficult enough, but this? Maybe in some kind of Timecop -esque future. Its also strange that GM has criticizedmore viable ideas, such as Better Place, and yet presents something like the P.U.M.A. The problems immediately facing GM are massive. The auto industry is shedding jobs like never before, and filing for bankruptcy is a serious option for the company. In the face of these kinds of challenges, the P.U.M.A. and the corresponding PR initiative is just a bizarre distraction.