- Spin, Ford’s scooter company, plans to test remote-controlled scooters in Boise, Idaho this spring.
- The technology enables Spin to move scooters that are unlikely to ride again and park them again.
- Finally, Spin aims to start a hail function that riders can use to summon a scooter.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
Spin, Ford’s micromobility company, will test a fleet of e-scooters that can be parked remotely and called to your own location at the push of a button, the company announced on Wednesday.
The system enables Spin to move improperly parked scooters, relocate them from areas of low demand to areas of high demand, and ultimately deliver them remotely to drivers’ doorsteps.
The new three-wheeled scooters, manufactured by Segway and referred to as the Spin S-200, are equipped with front and rear cameras that allow a software partner, Tortoise, to remotely access and operate the vehicles.
Spin plans to deploy up to 300 scooters for a pilot in Boise, Idaho this spring. During the first phase, Spin will only reposition the scooters for short distances – within a block or two or so – and eventually move them up to two miles, the company’s CBO Ben Bear told Insider.
The company says the technology will help better comply with parking regulations so that a scooter that is blocking a sidewalk, ADA ramp, or parking lot can be moved quickly. Scooter riders like Spin, Bird, and Lime have caught heat on pedestrians and city councils because of their ability to clutter sidewalks.
Tortoise’s technology could also help Spin achieve better operational efficiency and reach more drivers.
A fleet of teleoperated scooters will also theoretically help Spin achieve better operating efficiency and economy of the units, Bear said. Scooter sharing services have struggled to make a profit in the past – they battled high operating costs and fierce competition – even though the pandemic helped their bottom line.
“By moving the scooters to areas with higher traffic volumes, we can increase occupancy, which increases sales per unit. That’s on the demand side,” said Bear. “On the cost side, we can reposition and park the scooters without having to send staff. We can do this remotely, which lowers costs.”
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Bear also said Tortoise Spin’s technology could help make more rides with fewer scooters, citing an MIT study that found that self-repositioning scooters can increase operator occupancy up to ten times.
In addition, the system could allow Spin to tap into less dense suburban markets where scooters were previously not cost-effective and provide affordable last mile transportation to people on the outskirts who can’t or can’t afford a car enable. I don’t have access to one.
“Imagine you have an 8:00 am bus and you want a scooter to always be there for the last mile of your journey,” said Bear. “This way we can create the reliability that shared scooters lack.”
Spin plans to test a scooter hail feature later this year that will allow drivers to call an S-200 to a designated location. If the Boise tests and another pilot in the UK go according to plan, Bear could deploy thousands of scooters in 2021, according to Bear.
“Then in 2022, who knows,” he said. “If that works, we could scale really fast.”