Don’t call Ghostbusters if you see a scooter moving without a driver in downtown Boise, Idaho. Ford’s Spin has developed a surprisingly advanced electric scooter called the S-200 that can be operated remotely.
Spin – which Ford bought in 2018 and which calls its micro-mobility subsidiary – said it gave the S-200 three wheels to improve stability, improve braking, and ensure it gets up without a kickstand. Users will notice a difference while driving: it’s supposedly safer than a two-wheeler, and pedestrians don’t have to jump over stray S-200s as they head to the corner store.
Since it stands on its own, an operator can park it remotely thanks to impressive technology that includes front and rear-facing cameras, computer vision, machine learning, a visual navigation system, and software from a company called Tortoise, according to Spin. That is, if a driver leaves the S-200 in the middle of a sidewalk, in front of your friend’s driveway, in a disabled parking lot, or in any other location they definitely shouldn’t be, a member of the remote operations team can reposition it wirelessly . Ford advises that drivers will also be moving scooters into areas that are unlikely to be picked up again.
Boise will receive up to 300 remote-controlled S-200s this spring. Strolling downtown isn’t as dangerous as it sounds, as the scooters are only programmed to move at speeds of up to 3 mph.
Looking ahead, Ford notes that the same technology that is used to park the S-200 remotely allows users to avoid a few blocks by taking one with a specially designed smartphone app either in real time or call their location in advance. This feature will be available in late 2021 and does not make the S-200 automated. Someone on the other end of the app will guide the scooter to your location. Until then, Ford and Spin will continue to partner with city councils interested in using self-parking scooters on their sidewalks.
Popularized by Lime among others, electric scooters were welcomed with open arms in the mid-2010s but quickly became a nuisance in cities and towns around the world. While drivers who park illegally get a ticket, anyone can get off a scooter wherever they see fit and worry about someone else moving it if they’re in the way. In rare but not uncommon cases, scooters end up in trenches, trees, and rivers.
Copenhagen, Denmark is widely seen as a mobility-friendly city, but the mayor suggested banning electric scooters from the historic center and adjacent neighborhoods in late 2020 to restore a semblance of order. On our side of the pond, Miami has ended its e-scooter program to stop underage driving and the clutter on the sidewalk.