Tortoise, a startup founded by a former employee of Uber, believes that they can create a solution that generates a more sustainable and efficient transit option by combining two modern transport trends: autonomous driving and electric scooters. Tortoise founder, Dmitry Shevelenko, claimed that instead of operating a fleet of its own, Tortoise is aiming to be a technology partner to improve the scooters’ systems: using autonomous driving to move e-scooters to proper parking spaces that are in consent with city regulations. Shevelenko, who led Uber into the new fields of Jump Bikes and public ticketing systems, believes the possibility to remotely retrieve and redistribute the scooters without human operators on-site is the key to make the micromobility more reliable and available.
The equipment to enable the self-driving function will cost $100 per scooter, which includes two cameras, a radar, a processor, a motor, and possibly a pair of robotic training wheels for the two-wheelers . Tortoise will first test the new technology in suburban environments but aims at deploying it on big markets such as San Francisco. In addition, Tortoise is expanding its network of collaborators to have its technology deployed on their respective markets. For example, Wind, one major e-scooter player which is convinced by the concept: “This technology will enable us to provide the best mobility service for our users and the city authorities”, said the EMEA CEO Ed Schmidt.
Tortoise is of course not alone in this arena. Uber has recently revealed a bit more about its New Mobility Robotics team that will work with sensing and robotics for light electric vehicles.
In 2016, Google put up an advertisement about its self-driving bicycle for April Fool’s Day. Now, not as a prank anymore, self-driving e-scooters might become the silver lining to end the chaos that was once created by themselves. According to North Carolina State University’s research, daily collection and charging of e-scooters accounts for 43 per cent of the environmental impacts in terms of CO2 emissions during their lifetime . Tortoise’s technology has the potential to significantly mitigate the impacts coming from scooter redistribution and, besides, helping with congestions by avoiding trucks coming into city centres to pick up the e-scooters. However, whether the $100 autonomous driving pack would be an economically feasible option for the operators to deploy this technology at larger scale is still a question. Partnering with e-scooter brands like the three wheeled e-floater could at least eliminate the cost for the robotic training wheels.
Written by Anne Faxér, RISE Viktoria.
1. 2019-10-22. Can autonomous scooters solve sidewalk clutter?