PUMA proto-hype at the 2009 New York auto show

How much marketing spiel from General Motors is this, and how much of it is their design?

It seems that the only part of the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, or PUMA, project  that General Motors is developing is the communications network that would allow vehicles to interact with each other, regulate the flow of traffic and prevent crashes from happening.

Chris Borroni-Bird, director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts at GM, talked about the PUMA, telling me about the lithium-ion battery, the time it takes to charge the barely two-seater vehicle. He told me how many miles it could go, and that the current PUMA would be more for emerging markets than the United States.

Then I ran into Lloyd, a technician from Segway. He told me that this was Segway’s design, Segway’s battery.  He told me that when fully depleted the PUMA would take ten hours to recharge (instead of the 3 hours Borroni-Bird said).  The technology that enables balancing is proprietary to Segway. It is that technology that allows the maneuverability (true zero turning radius), and a small footprint.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the advanced technology of vehicle to vehicle and wireless technology to avoid traffic backups and navigate cities, but when I saw this I thought it contained General Motors advanced technology for fuel efficiency.

Am I wrong?

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.