Japan Today
Friday, February 6, 2004 at 14:00 JST

TOKYO - Tokyo police sent papers to prosecutors Thursday on a businessman over use of the U.S.-made Segway scooter vehicle on a public road, an unusually strict move that marks the first time in Japan that police have taken action over people riding the two-wheeled novelty.

The police allege that the 42-year-old president of an import company in the capital's Setagaya Ward violated the Road Traffic Law by having a person drive a Segway on a public road in July last year for advertising purposes.

Last year I tried to get the government to relax its regulations to allow people to ride Segways, but they wouldn't. I gave up the idea. I actually know this guy and he was insistent that he could build a business importing Segways. I guess not. This is pretty "unusually strict" but the police hate it when you make money doing stuff that they don't approve of.

Thanks for the link Chris

13 Comments

As much as I appreciate new technology that shapes our society, but I think I do feel uncomfortable walking besides someone who's riding Segway scooter, not to mention driving beside it. But then again I've never see it in person :P

I wish they'd bust a few of the kamikaze bicycle riders that threaten life and limb on Tokyo sidewalks. They're breaking the law, too, as I understand it. :-(

i am with the cops

If it had been in L.A. two dozen cop cars would have chased him for forty miles at 3mph, and they would've broken into regular programming to show it on TV.

Tehuti: I'm from L.A., and believe me, you couldn't get a cop interested in anything short of a murder. They laugh if you try to get them to come out to a traffic accident scene if nobody's dead.

The Segway thing is definitely a case of made-in-the-U.S. product descrimination. If Sony had invented it, it'd be legal. When the patent expires (or is licensed to Sony) it will "all of a sudden" be legal.

As for legitimate safety issues, probably: there are no sidewalks in most of Tokyo, and streets are really narrow. However, there are also legitimate safety issues about distracted housewifes with two kids, front and back, on bicycles with no helmets. There are _serious_ safety issues about televisions in the front seat of automobiles. But of course Japanese companies invented navi's with TV functions, so nobody's tried to outlaw them. (Having two kids on a bicycle is actually illegal, but is completely not enforced.)

Our host's comment applies but in general, unless there's a specific provision in the law allowing some device or activity, trying to get approval to sell type of device is difficult. Also, there are very specific provisions as to what is allowed and not allowed for electrically assisted bicycles, power assisted devices for the physically handicapped. As the Segway is not covered under any of the existing categories, our host had no luck in getting the regulatory interpretation relaxed. I don't necessarily agree money was an issue (other than insufficient lubrication) but more likely bureaucratic inertia.

With regards to car navs with TVs, when I bought a new car three years ago, I was told by the dealer that car navigation devices were required to disable the TV display unless the parking brake was set. Apparently its possible to hack this but the dealer was not willing to do that for me.

Navis that come with new cars may have the disabling device, but those bought as bolt-on items for the car you already own have no such device. I own one. You cannot change the input to your navigation system while under way with my model, but you certainly can watch TV and change channels.

Patiki: Although I don't think the segway was targeted because of
made-in-the U.S, If Dean Kamen, inovator of Segway, was an employee of SONY, there would be offered a pack of law team for legality and marketing, PR and sales team to plan best presentation for the product.
Nothing different from large US companies.
This is rather familiar example of IT industory that
coolest invation loses because of bad marketing.

By the way there is a detail tald in every Japanese news but not in
English Japan Today article. A public road the men
had his PR ladies drive and found violation of the Road Traffic Law
was Takashita-street in Harajuku. You know a tiny street where always
crowded by kids walking and shopping daytime. And in a news video of this Segway ride last July as much as I can remember, Segways were runnning sidewalks of Shibuya and Harajyuku.
From the point of siply minded creature, I am wondering if he might misthink that Takeshita-street was sidewalks too. (And unfortunate is he had nobody to give him advice.) Even from Japanese news, I can not see
this violation of the low is what he meant or just accident.

my vote is with the "not invented here" group.

Chris_B wrote:
> my vote is with the "not invented here" group.

Wow. What a "perceptive" analysis, reflecting what is probably a, um, very deep knowledge of Japan...
That pesky NIH factor probably explains why riding the Segway on public roads is illegal in about a dozen states in the US...

if some of you paid attention to the news, you would know that it already was invented in Japan about 20 years ago at a university.

Another "Kingdom" where the Segway is not approved, Disneyland.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/ptech/02/09/disney.nosegways.ap/index.html

Given the high level of utility that the Segway has for some persons with physical disabilities who are quoted in the above article, it seems like a natural to have one of these groups lobby the FDA in the US and the MHLW in Japan to get it approved as a special medical device.

For the record, the opinion that the Segway is illegal is not a Japan-only phenomenon. See
"Segway Stumbles in Europe" at
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,61632,00.html

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