After several years of usage, Lyft finally decided to organize a shared micromobility landscape, with fewer fleet-floating scooters and more dependable, docked vehicles. To achieve this, on Thursday the company revealed its next-generation dockable e-scooter.
Lyft is intending to introduce new, dockable e-scooters into their fleet. By mid-February, Lyft intends to bring the first 1,000 to Washington, D.C. to run alongside older units until their end of life. By mid-2023 they will introduce an extra 1,000 scooters. New scooters and potentially new docking stations will be implemented in cities where the company currently operates a scooter-share network (Chicago, Denver, D.C., and Minneapolis). Last year, Lyft expanded its bikeshare program to Chicago to include docked scooters. There are five pilot grid-connected charging stations in the city, and Lyft plans to roll out 30 by the end of this year.
“We have this incredible docked base in large cities around the country where we will begin to, in some cases replace, and in other expand, the network,” Caroline Samponaro, head of micromobility and transit policy at Lyft.
When e-scooters were first introduced one of their main advantages was their dockless nature, the ability to stumble upon them in random places. The most attractive aspect was the ability of leaving the vehicles wherever you happened to hop off them. However, even though these were extremely attractive in the beginning, they resulted in chaos not only for cities, pedestrians, and cyclists but also for e-scooter users. Lyft might prove that docked e-scooters can add some order and make the usage of e-scooters simpler. Lyft’s experience with docked bikesharing will not only provide existing docking stations for e-scooters but also it will help with battling local authorities to give up parking spaces for micromobility.
“You’re not gonna put up a station and then pull it back up the next year,” said Samponaro. “You want to think about it as infrastructure that fits into protected bike lane networks or that works well with transit hubs, and those are planning exercises that are longer term.”
Lyft will be one of the first micromobility operators to deploy Segway-Ninebot's new AI-powered scooter. The next-gen scooter is built with computer vision to detect sidewalk riding, parking and obstacles. Lyft will release a model that can be charged while docked at Lyft’s new stations, but today’s vehicles are built with swappable batteries for dockless operations. The new station, which Lyft is calling the Pillar, is designed to be smaller and more flexible so it can integrate better into city landscapes.
“One of the things we hear a lot from our city partners is if we can take up a little less space with the station,” said Samponaro. “You want to have all types of city streets built to accommodate that parking infrastructure. So, the new Pillar station is meant to be scaled based on the space you have, so you can have a big footprint in a major transit centre or you can scale that down to fewer docks based on a neighbourhood setting.”
The idea with dockable e-scooters sounds reasonable. I agree with the fact that the free-floating structure of e-scooters creates a lot of chaos on streets for both people who use them and pedestrians who just walk pass. This will make e-scooter users leave them in certain places which results in cleaner streets. Moreover, a dockable system will avoid additional vehicles driving around, picking the scooters up and driving them somewhere for charging. Usually, these operations are not optimized. If we consider that one reason for using micro-mobility is to reduce our carbon footprint, another vehicle driving around the city and charging batteries works against that goal.
The next-gen e-scooter powered by a full spectrum of AI technologies is a big step toward safety. The Segway Pilot system provides real-time guidance and assistance to riders. It will also monitor various parking environments for operators and encourage responsible parking behaviour from riders. Personally, I would like to see more dockable e-scooters with technologies that encourage better driving behaviour and fewer e-scooters cluttering sidewalks.
Written by Kateryna Melnyk,
RISE Mobility & Systems