While the electric scooter has exploded in popularity since first being introduced in 2017, one major disadvantage of the device is the fact that many complained that riders will simply drop them off anywhere once done riding, causing many sidewalks to become blocked.
Spin, the scooter company that is owned by Ford, is testing out a potential solution for this problem.
For one thing, these scooters look different from the rest of the scooters on the streets. These are Degway’s T60 model have feature a third wheel, added to the front of the scooter.
The scooters also feature sensors from startup Tortoise, which is testing how teleoperation could help manage shared electric scooters. Spin is planning to roll out 250 remote controlled scooters in Boise, Idaho in order to see if this could help the issue.
Tortoise’s sensors allow the scooters’ front and back-facing cameras to give remote access to operators to move the scooters when they are blocking roads or sidewalks. This means that perhaps the scooters will be able to move a few blocks to meet riders.
Ben Bear, chief business officer at Spin, shares: “There has been a lot of fanfare around the potential of teleoperated e-scooters, but this partnership marks a turning point in tangible operational plans to bring them to city streets.”
Bear continues: “In addition to providing reliability to consumers and more order to city streets, this could significantly improve unit economics, reducing the operational work required to maintain and reposition fleets, while cutting down on mileage spent traveling to rebalance vehicles.”
The problem that these remote controlled scooters aim to solve has been around since the start of the electric scooter days. Currently, freelance contractors collect scooters at night in order to charge and rebalance the scooters. As contractors are paid for every scooter they collect, this had led to arguments, fights, and sometimes even threats of violence.
Riders often will struggle with finding an available scooter close to where they are located. Scooters will often block walkways for pedestrians along sidewalks. This is especially concerning for people in wheelchairs and other pedestrians who have mobility concerns.
Scooters end up being concentrated in specific locations around cities, and the cities have also brought up the fact that often scooters are not found in low-income areas.
In theory, once a rider is finished riding, Tortoise’s teleoperators will be able to remotely reposition the scooter, whether it is obstructing the sidewalk or is dropped off in a location that isn’t convenient to other riders.
Spin has shared that it will also be adding a “scooter hailing” feature that will let riders request a scooter in advance or in real time.