USPS Will Test New Transportation Device

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The U.S. Postal Service said yesterday that it plans to test a new two-wheeled battery-powered device designed to help increase the efficiency of mail carriers.

The two-wheeled device, called the Segway Human Transporter but better known by its code name of Ginger, was invented by Dean Kamen and introduced yesterday.

The device, which looks like a push lawnmower, is a gyroscope-stabilized, battery-powered vehicle that Kaman says will revolutionize short-distance travel. Its speed and direction are controlled solely by the rider's shifting weight and a manual turning mechanism on one of the handlebars. It moves at an average speed of 8 mph, or three times walking pace. The Segway can go 15 miles on a six-hour charge for less than a dime's worth of electricity from a standard wall socket.

The first models, which are expected to be available to consumers in about a year, will cost about $3,000.

The USPS said yesterday that it plans to try 20 units on mail routes in Concord, NH, and Fort Myers, FL, starting in January. The agency hopes the devices can reduce reliance on trucks and enable mail carriers to cover more ground. The USPS is not paying for the scooters, a USPS spokesman said, during the test phase.

Besides the USPS, the National Park Service and the city of Atlanta plan to begin limited field tests of the devices early next year. and several companies that make parts for the Segway, including GE Plastics and Michelin North America, also plan to use the devices to try to save money by reducing the time it takes employees to move around corporate campuses and large warehouses.

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