Zachary Wang, CEO of Neuron Mobility, sets out some of the differences between rental and private e-scooters.
The UK’s great experiment with e-scooters is just beginning after the Government legalised rental e-scooters on British roads last month.
At Neuron, the leading rental e-scooter operator in Australia and New Zealand, we are excited to be one of the operators taking part in the trials, which will soon be taking place across the UK.
They have the potential to radically transform how we get around our towns and cities, from travelling to work in a safe and socially-distanced way, to visiting friends and seeing new places without having to sit in traffic in gas guzzling vehicles.
With this, local authorities across the country are now looking closely at the possibility of running e-scooter trials in their areas over the next 12 months. Naturally the key priorities for councils are likely to be safety and effective integration into their area.
It’s in these two important areas where councils can take control on shared e-scooters. There are significant differences between many shared e-scooters and the private e-scooters that are being increasingly seen on UK streets.
One of the most noticeable differences is in appearance. Rental e-scooters like Neuron’s are discernibly bigger and sturdier. They have been designed specifically for sharing and built to be more robust and last longer than private e-scooters. This is important as they are likely to be used much more frequently.
Neuron’s e-scooters also have a wider foot plate and bigger wheels than other models, which results in them being more stable and able to handle uneven terrain. All this makes riding more comfortable and also reduces the likelihood of a fall.
There are also a number of high-tech, safety features which can give the local authorities much more control over how they are used. For example, councils wanting to control exactly where vehicles can and can’t be used could benefit from always-connected e-scooters with inbuilt GPS technology. Combined with geofencing this can dictate and control exactly where e-scooters can be ridden and parked, and how fast they can travel in different areas.
The technology can also be used to create ‘slow zones’, such as around a school or nursery, where the maximum riding speed is automatically reduced. This feature can also be used to create ‘no-go’ zones, keeping e-scooters off dual carriageways for example, and ‘no parking’ zones, giving councils the power to control the travel of e-scooters through a particular area, and to determine where they are allowed to be left.
Encouraging helmet use is another key concern. While it is not mandatory to wear a helmet in the UK, riders are encouraged to do so and each e-scooter should have one available. There are a number of features here that shared e-scooter operators have developed and are using to encourage their use.
One feature Neuron will be rolling out on e-scooters in the UK is the world’s first app-controlled helmet lock, this secures a helmet to every e-scooter, releasing it at the start of the trip, so all riders get the choice to wear one. Another Neuron initiative is the Helmet Selfie that gives the rider credits if they take a picture of themselves wearing the helmet, further incentivising their use.
User education is also vital to successfully integrate e-scooters. Shared e-scooter operators are developing innovative user education tools. Neuron, for example, is the only operator with a ‘talking’ e-scooter model which can welcome new riders, guide them through the various safety features, offer warnings for when it is approaching low-speed or no-go zones, and instructions on how to park safely and return helmets when done.
From our experience this is much more effective than a video on a website that few people visit. The novelty factor too is quite attention grabbing, especially if it comes with the voice of a well-known local figure.
Finally, one of the most recent innovations Neuron has developed to give riders the confidence to scoot safely is a ‘Follow My Ride’ function. This has been developed directly in response to feedback from users who want to share their location with selected friends and family, giving them reassurance that they have completed their journey safely, particularly at night-time. This can be activated through an app which provides a URL to a tracking page which can be shared directly by the user to their friends or family.
So, the e-scooters that could be destined for British streets are likely to look and behave very differently to the private ones seen today. The extra safety features, the enhanced tracking, and the ability to centrally regulate their use, should provide the best chance for success for the UK’s pilot e-scooter rental programmes.