Detection technology can help keep electric scooters off the sidewalk
From the nation's capital to Lincoln, Nebraska, to the beach town of Santa Monica, California, motorcyclists have become so common gliding along crowded sidewalks that bans on riding equipment in pedestrian corridors have proved difficult to enforce.
That will soon change, supporters say, with the introduction of detection technology that will discourage sidewalk driving and promote safer operations, potentially reducing injuries to riders and pedestrians associated with scooters.
The system, developed by Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub (DxHUB), is one of the technologies being tested to shut down scooters while they ride on the sidewalk.
Transportation and industry leaders say the adoption of the technology, which has been around since electric scooters were first introduced, would ease the growing conflict over sidewalk use that began more than two years ago.
Joseph Cevetello, Santa Monica's chief information officer, says: "If these companies make the effort and keep developing it, they might come up with a secure solution."DxHUB develops solutions.The city is drafting regulations that would require scooter design companies to use sidewalk testing and other technologies to reduce sidewalk driving.
Last year, San Jose asked companies operating in the city for sidewalk detection solutions, prompting companies like Bird, Lime, Lyft and Spin to come up with their own ideas.
In the first urban area in the United States to use scooters, the devices have been banned from downtown sidewalks, and the DC Council is weighing legislation that would require better signage on streets to remind users not to ride on sidewalks.
The council will weigh legislation to further regulate the use of scooters in the city, but the city has found that designating only sidewalks as no-go areas for scooters does not work.Despite some success in the campaign to educate riders, pavement cycling remains a top priority.
Scooter companies tell cyclists to avoid riding on prohibited sidewalks by using in-app notifications, pre-ride education and signs on the device.They believe that as people become more familiar with the services and rules, complaints have declined.
Some companies are already experimenting with technologies such as GPS, sensors, Bluetooth beacons, on-board cameras and artificial intelligence, though none of these approaches are fully integrated into the service.Testing and deploying these technologies will take time to prove their effectiveness, the companies said.
It may also require a significant investment in scooter design upgrades, although some industry experts say early prototypes suggest the cost is modest.
In Santa Monica, where scooters have been banned on all sidewalks, officials recruited DxHUB last year to address a growing problem: scooter users still ride on the sidewalks despite extensive public education programs and law enforcement officers issuing tickets for infractions.
Still, Bird is testing a similar tool that would immediately block scooters from entering pedestrian space.Scott Rushforth, Byrd's chief vehicle officer, said the technology, which requires a chip to be inserted into the scooter, would be integrated into the vehicle in production, though it would take some time to launch safely.
Bird and other scooter companies say they have been working to develop sidewalk detection technology as part of their commitment to safe cycling and solving the problem.
The companies say they hope the technology will not only educate riders, but also guide cities in making decisions about investing in scooter infrastructure.In most cases, they say, cyclists travel on sidewalks because they don't feel safe riding in mixed traffic.
While the company appears ready to use sidewalk detection systems for educational purposes, support for systems that power off scooters on sidewalks is not widespread.
Mr. Sadr said the company has no plans to adopt the technology.Educating riders and providing cities with data to support more investment in infrastructure is the best way to reduce sidewalk cycling, he says.
"The last thing I want to have is someone riding in the middle of the road and their system stops automatically because it thinks they're on the pavement and an accident has happened," he said.
Spin, owned by the Ford Motor Company, is testing geo-fencing to stop sidewalks in a pilot project in SAN Jose.
Geo-fencing USES GPS signals to create geographic boundaries that restrict the movement of electric scooters within specific areas.But while the technology has been used to enforce driverless areas and virtual parking areas, it still cannot prevent pavements from driving.