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Fifteen years after Kamen introduced the world to an electric vehicle, the world was finally ready for them. By 2017, the sharing and gig economies were in full swing, two things essential to the success of companies like Lime and Bird. People think nothing of sharing rather than owning things these days, and a ready supply of independent contractors makes charging and repairing scooters far easier — and cheaper. It also helped that smartphones, which make it a breeze to unlock a scooter and pay for a ride, are ubiquitous. And the ever-growing number of bike lanes in urban centers provides a place to ride safely.

Segway's office in Bedford, New Hampshire, is a quiet place. It focuses on the Segway PT, and the market for it is shrinking, according to Ninebot. As a result, there were layoffs earlier this year. When CNN Business visited in September, an area once used for testing the Segway PT had given way to palettes of scooters fresh from China.

The experiment in Florida highlighted another problem: Segway developed and tested the PT under the greatest secrecy. The company worried a competitor might beat it to market, and suspected Japanese automakers were working on a similar device. Employees kept the shades drawn. In some cases, they sealed the blinds with tape, lest someone try to peek through the narrow gap between the blind and window frame. They hid the scooters in plywood crates before transporting them.

Roger Brown still remembers the shocked looks people gave him the first time he rode a Segway through the halls of the company's New Hampshire headquarters.