The Segway Human Transporter, the much-hyped two-wheeled battery-powered scooter invented by United States engineer Dean Kamen, has found success in Thailand transporting tourists in tours of Bangkok. Entrepreneur Jeff Jarvis started Thailand Segway Tours in October after relocating from California. He hit upon the idea of running tours of Bangkok - one of Asia's more polluted cities - using the high-tech scooter touted to be a pollution buster as an environment-friendly alternative to motorcycles. 'The tours have been a great hit and the highlight of many people's trip to Bangkok,' he said, adding that his company has no affiliations with Segway. The Segway has attracted publicity since news of its development first leaked in January 2001. Mr Kamen claimed it would 'sweep over the world and change lives'. He expected it to be a huge hit in cities with severe traffic congestion. However, the Segway has run into problems with state and country legislature due to safety issues. Most recently, the company recalled about 6,000 Segways it had sold due to battery problems that caused some drivers to fall off. United States President George Bush was seen falling off one on television. Mr Jarvis said there could be accidents if the safety instructions were not heeded. However, no one has fallen off his Segways yet. 'I find the Segway to be very safe and easy to use,' he said. 'Most people have control of the machine in under a minute. It is very intuitive, and I have had people riding without instructions.' Mr Jarvis has seven Segways in his fleet, each worth about US$5,000. The company offers three tours. One is to the Ancient City, a 129.5-hectare park on the outskirts of Bangkok. The tour takes two hours and costs 3,400 baht (about HK$670). Another is to the Summer Palace in Bang Pa-In, near Ayutthaya, which lasts 90 minutes and costs 2,800 baht. The shortest but most popular option is an hour's tour of the back streets of Bangkok visiting local markets and seeing how locals live. The Segway is banned from most public places in Hong Kong as it does not meet the safety criteria for motorcycles. In the US, Mr Kamen has lobbied successfully to see it used in 30 states. It is selling in Europe with some success and several government departments in South Korea and Singapore have bought it. However, the Segway's high price has put it out of reach of developing countries in Asia with the worst pollution. The machine has a top speed of 19 km/h and enough power in its battery for a 24km trip. It weighs 31kg, has no brakes, accelerator or steering wheel, and uses a silicone gyroscope to maintain balance, propelling users along at three times normal walking speed. The Hong Kong Transport Authority had not relaxed its stance on the Segway since it first became available on Amazon.com in 2002. It is not illegal to own a Segway in Hong Kong but you are liable to be fined more than $8,000 if you are caught riding it on Hong Kong roads or pavements. Mr Jarvis said he was not sure if the Segway was legal on the roads in Bangkok, but since he had started his business, the local police had reacted positively. Singapore, where petrol-powered bicycles are banned, has kept a surprisingly open mind on the Segway. Policemen are already riding Segways at Changi Airport and other government departments are testing them for use within certain developments to cut down on pollution and fight traffic congestion. The Singapore transport authority is testing a list of environment-friendly, unconventional vehicles including the Segway, the Think Neighbor electric buggy by Ford Motor and the Smart Microcar by DaimlerChrysler as personal transporters for use on the city's roads and pavements. However, companies, organisations and government agencies have taken longer than expected to move from testing to buying, and questions have arisen on how much demand exists beyond initial consumer curiosity. As of September last year, Segway had sold only about 6,000 machines in the US. The company had expected to sell 50,000 to 100,000 units by January last year. Still, Mr Jarvis sees great potential for the Segway in tourism. 'It is a convenient, safe and easy way to get around. It is much less work than using a bicycle and you can stop at any time to take a picture. It works well indoors and outdoors. Think about big museums and art galleries and big tourist sites like the Forbidden City in Beijing .?.?. with the Segway, getting around would be so much easier and it would make the tour so much more enjoyable,' he said.