E-scooter project to improve safety standards begins in DCU

AI to provide data on pedestrian avoidance, obstacle tracking and lane detection

An e-scooter research project designed to set new safety standards has begun across five Dublin City University (DCU) campuses as moves to make the vehicles legal on Irish streets continue. The project will see e-scooter operator Tier collaborate with Irish micromobility tech platform Luna, the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics and Smart DCU to monitor how artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision can improve safety for riders and pedestrians.

Plans for the project were revealed in April, but it was only officially launched on Tuesday.

As part of the project, 30 Tier e-scooters will be kitted out with Luna’s computer vision technology and AI models to provide data on pedestrian avoidance and lane detection, and allow preventative measures to be taken on footpath use. The scooters will also be used to study the Tier Energy Network battery swap scheme, and the impact on the commuting patterns of students and staff at DCU.

Initially the scooters will be used within the campuses, but once legislation allows, the trial will also operate between them.


"Ireland is truly leading the way in the space of the use of e-scooters and I very much look forward to seeing this pilot get moving across DCU campuses," said Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton.

“This is an interesting and exciting time in transport – the innovation and momentum is palpable here today. It is my job now and the job of Government to play our part and progress the necessary legislation required for the safe use of e-scooters in Ireland.”

The Republic lags most European countries in permitting the use of e-scooters in public.

Obstacle alerts

The project will also provide smart city data to Insight researchers that can be used in the development of an AI model to alert city authorities to obstacles on footpaths, such as scooters, cars or fallen trees.

The e-scooter pilot project will run until early next year, and could provide valuable data for scooter-sharing schemes throughout the State.

"This is such an important research pilot project for Tier in Ireland, and we are excited to have launched this trial across the five campuses of Dublin City University," said Fred Jones, Tier's regional general manager for northern Europe.

“It is an exciting opportunity for detailed research on smart city applications of e-scooters as well as a modal shift, as we partner with Luna and Insight to help the university to reduce its carbon footprint and offer a more sustainable, safer first- and last-mile public transport solution. We hope to apply all project learnings to future Tier operations in Ireland.”

Luna has come up with technology that ensures e-scooters can “sense” pedestrians and recognise different road surfaces. It can also ensure with pinpoint accuracy where e-scooters are and if they are being safely parked.

"Cities and towns everywhere are looking towards smart technology to help find solutions to some of the operational challenges that are holding the scooter industry back from fulfilling its potential," said Andrew Fleury, co-founder and chief executive of Luna. "The fact that this technology also has the ability to turn scooter fleets into mobile sensor networks, and thereby assist the city across multiple areas from road condition monitoring to street infrastructure mapping, is very exciting for all the project stakeholders."

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist