This is The Future: What Are Self-Driving Scooters?

Are you ready for a future with self-driving vehicles? Between 2018 to 2020, there have been plenty of talks regarding self-driving vehicles.  

The thing is, this topic is bound to come about – the combination of shared electric scooters and the possibility of autonomous driving. How are micro-mobile and transport companies exploring the possibility of cars, bikes, and scooters driving or riding themselves?  

Since 2018, electric bikes and e-scooters have stormed into cities, and this trend will continue to grow until it’s no more a trend, but a necessity and a way of life. Startups and companies like UBER are already exploring self-driving cars, bikes, and scooters as a way to decrease operational costs and improve a city’s congestion.  

Why self-driving? 

Tech experts say that self-driving scooters open up a host of opportunities for the communities where it operates. For one, experts point out that scooters can independently move themselves and park, or move themselves to an area where there’s more demand for micro-mobility.   

These ‘ghost scooters’ can drive themselves, and eventually even pick up a rider or a customer the same way Uber and Lyft services do. There could also be a human on the other side of the teleoperation center that guides these scooters as it scoots across sidewalks and down streets.  

Uber has long been eyeing the technology to create autonomous scooters and bikes to expand its transportation offering to the masses. From looking at cheap sensors to creating a computer program that solves the issues currently facing bikes and scooters, Uber is all in with the expansion of self-driving scooters.  

More than just convenience, self-driving scooters would eventually result in operational savings. The self-driving option would enable scooters to move and maneuver their way to charging stations or maintenance depots, park themselves at designated parking areas, as well as redistribute themselves to where users need them. Soon, you don’t need to go searching for a scooter (which is pretty much the biggest issue right now). You can just call one to your location.  

Companies can also do away with getting humans to find these scooters, collect them, charge them, and then maintain them. All of these actions have proven to be extremely costly.  

Together with a self-driving capability, companies would be able to create a dashboard that will allow them to know when a scooter needs to be deployed, when it needs to be charged, and when it needs the next maintenance service, or if a scooter needs to be repaired. Adding these IoT elements opens up plenty of cost-reducing opportunities for startups and scooter companies. 

Self-driving scooters would also mean you’ll see fewer scooters lying around at random places. If they can self-drive themselves to the nearest charging station when not in use, that would already be half the battle won when congestion is concerned. Self-driving is hard but achievable.  

The technology to make anything self-drive is hard. Apart from the demo rides we’ve seen, companies are still deep in testing mode, and they aren’t ready to remove the human safety element out of these vehicles. 

Scooters don’t have the same danger posed by cars in terms of speed or weight. However, they bring their own set of challenges.  

  • Two-wheeled vehicles are more prone to falling over with no human weight and movement to keep it upright. 
  • There’s no obvious way (at least, not yet) of ensuring scooters and bikes don’t trip, and there’s also no way of getting them back up again if they fall. 
  • There’s no clear way of getting a bike to propel itself. 
  • Scooters pose an issue when they operate on the sidewalk or the street. How will it manage to avoid vehicles, pedestrians, and intersections?  

According to CTO Kevin Peterson of the sidewalk delivery robot company Marble, the biggest hurdle isn’t so much the falling over of these scooters, but the costs involved in adding sensors and coming up with newer computer programs to turn data into decision-making capacities.  

Even if a company uses Lidar, currently the most expensive form of a sensor in its self-driving endeavors, there comes the thousands-of-dollars costs, which defeat the purpose of a less-expensive vehicle. 

The future of self-driving vehicles and self-driving scooters is unwritten. Only the future holds what capacities we can move toward and the technologies that are available to us. For now, mankind will continue to explore better, faster, easier, and more convenient ways to make life easier, and more specifically, increase the mobility of human beings.   

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