Electric scooters could soon have similar sensor technology to that seen on high-end cars, thanks to a new partnership between Irish micromobility start-up Luna and Swedish company Voi.
The agreement sees Voi becoming one of the first shared e-scooter operators in the world to offer detection technology that should ensure better safety both for riders and pedestrians.
Luna is an Irish consortium that comprises vehicle tracking and fleet management solution provider Transpoco and next-generation IoT specialist Taoglas. It has developed technology that will allow Voi's e-scooters to "sense" pedestrians and recognise different road surfaces, as well as ensuring with pinpoint accuracy where e-scooters are and if they are being safely parked.
The first phase of the partnership with Voi launches this week with a year-long pilot of Luna’s computer vision technology in Northampton, England.
"The onus to date has been on pedestrians to detect, avoid and navigate around scooters. Luna's smart scooter technology flips that around and allows operators and cities to govern their fleets better and avoid these conflicts to begin with," said chief executive Andrew Fleury.
Luna’s technology relies on high-end camera sensors and artificial intelligence algorithms, to enable an e-scooter to understand if it is in a heavily pedestrianised area and react accordingly based on predefined parameters. It can also detect if scooters are operating on pavements, roads or other surfaces so that operators can determine if riders are fully complying with safety requirements.
Electronic scooters have exploded in popularity recently, but there have been issues with users riding on both paths and roads and with them dumping scooters at the side of roads or on pavements once they’ve finished with them. To be able to pinpoint where they are to centimetre-level accuracy means that shared scooter operators such as Voi can tell if a vehicle is parked correctly. It also enables local authorities to ascertain whether rules and policies are being adhered too.
Voi, which has racked up over 30 million rides since it was launched two years ago, was recently appointed by Northamptonshire County Council as an e-scooter operator in the county. The move coincided with an announcement by the British government of accelerated trials of rented e-scooter schemes as part of its strategy to explore transport alternatives in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is Luna's second partnership with an e-scooter provider. Blue Duck, a scheme provider focused on Texas and the southeastern United States, last year partnered with the DCU-based start-up to pilot its technology on the university's private-road campus.
“As shared e-scooters continue to be rolled out in cities across the world, they need to become smarter and safer – for the benefit of riders, pedestrians and cities,” said Mr Fleury.
“With this trial, we look forward in particular to exploring how computer vision-equipped e-scooters can improve the experience for riders, pedestrians, vulnerable road users, the Voi operations team, as well as local authorities themselves” he added.