Friday, April 10, 2009


This is too ironic. Here's a verbatim quote from the GM introduction of the "P.U.M.A." auto-balancing two person vehicle made in joint venture with Segway:

"Imagine moving about cities in a vehicle fashioned to your taste, that's fun to drive and ride in, that safely takes you where you want to go, and "connects" you to friends and family, while using clean, renewable energy, producing zero vehicle tailpipe emissions, and without the stress of traffic jams," said Burns. "And imagine doing this for one-fourth to one-third the cost of what you pay to own and operate today's automobile. This is what Project P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) is capable of delivering."

Yes. Imagine that. Let's imagine this as a series of bullet points, shall we?
A vehicle:
• tailored to your tastes
• fun to drive and ride
• safely takes you where you want to go
• "connects" you to friends and family
• using clean, renewable energy
• producing zero vehicle tailpipe emissions
• without the stress of traffic jams

I say that my commute (which is to say, my bike) can robustly answer "check!" to all of these with the possible exception of the "connects you to friends and family" item which seems to me to be more like a cell phone than a vehicle. But my bike, maybe kinda sorta, can be said to do even this.

This whole thing beggars the imagination. I've accused GM of incompetence before (before this abomination, even well before the first bailout).

But the point is, really: What does the fact that PUMA can be taken seriously say about us as a society, anyway? Are we so culturally averse to physical activity (and to sweat) that we'll do anything to avoid it, as beneath us? The Roman poet Juvenal described the ideal of the "healthy mind in the healthy body"; the apostle Paul referred to the "body as a temple". It does seem that there is something particularly American about this; you don't see this aversion to activity in Europe. Can this be laid at the feet of Madison Avenue, who basically elevated BO (and therefore sweat) to the level of a mortal sin?

And, does that guy in the photo above have any notion of just how truly dorky he looks? I mean, didn't everyone see Wall-E?

Have we really, truly become South Park? (Thanks to Geeks are Sexy for the reference.) Man, I would feel so much better if I knew this were GM perpetrating an elaborate joke. But I don't think so; they're a week late.

1 comment:

Brent said...

I'm flummoxed by the device, too, but I have to give GM credit for thinking in the right way. Better a small electric device than another Hummer.

Too, if this thing caught on, it would improve the safety and easy of cycling immeasurably. Imagine navigating through traffic in a street filled with small, quiet vehicles, that aren't too much faster than you, and that have many of the same concerns (safety, roadway, weather, etc.). That sounds like cycling nirvana!