- Spin, Ford's scooter company, plans to test remote-operated scooters in Boise, Idaho this spring.
- The tech will allow Spin to move scooters that are unlikely to get another trip and re-park them.
- Eventually, Spin aims to launch a hailing feature that will allow riders to summon a scooter.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Spin, Ford's micromobility company, will test out a fleet of e-scooters that can be re-parked remotely and summoned to one's location with the push of a button, the firm announced Wednesday.
The system will allow Spin to move incorrectly parked scooters, shift them from low to high-demand areas, and, eventually, deliver them to riders' doorsteps — all from a distance.
The new three-wheeled scooters, manufactured by Segway and dubbed the Spin S-200, come equipped with front and rear cameras that allow a software partner, Tortoise, to tap into the vehicles from afar and remotely operate them.
Spin plans to deploy up to 300 of the scooters in Boise, Idaho this spring for a pilot. In the first phase, Spin will only reposition the scooters short distances — within one to two blocks or so — with plans to eventually move them as far as two miles, the company's CBO, Ben Bear, told Insider.
The company says the technology will help it better comply with parking regulations, allowing it to quickly move a scooter that's blocking a sidewalk, ADA ramp, or parking spot, for instance. Scooter operators like Spin, Bird, and Lime have caught heat from pedestrians and city governments for their capacity to clutter sidewalks.
A fleet of teleoperated scooters will also theoretically help Spin achieve better operational efficiency and unit economics, Bear said. Scooter-sharing services have historically struggled to turn a profit — battling high operating costs and stiff competition — although the pandemic has helped their bottom lines.
"By being able to rebalance the scooters to higher ridership areas, we can increase utilization, which increases revenue per device. That's on the demand side," Bear said. "On the cost side, we can reposition and re-park the scooters without sending staff out. We can do that remotely, which reduces cost."
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Bear also said that Tortoise's technology may help Spin service more trips with fewer scooters, citing an MIT study that found that self-repositioning scooters can boost utilization up to tenfold for operators.
Plus, the system could enable Spin to tap into less dense suburban markets where it wasn't cost-effective to deploy scooters before, providing affordable last-mile transportation to people on the outskirts of cities who can't afford a car or don't have access to one.
"Imagine that you have an 8 a.m. bus and you want a scooter to always be there for the last mile of your journey," Bear said. "This allows us to create that reliability that's been missing from shared scooters."
Spin plans to test out a scooter hailing feature later this year that will allow riders to summon an S-200 to a specific location. If the Boise tests and another pilot in the United Kingdom go according to plan, Spin could deploy thousands of the scooters in 2021, according to Bear.
"Then in 2022, who knows," he said. "If this works, we could really scale up quickly."
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