According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, micromobility is: transportation over short distances provided by lightweight, usually single-person vehicles (such as bicycles and scooters).
Self-owned motorized scooters have been around for a long time and we can even find evidence of them as far back as the 19th century. More recently however, overcrowded cities along with the global focus on efficiency, reducing carbon footprint and changing consumption habits have led to the evolution of ‘shared micromobility’.
This move towards sharing means of transport can be seen in many categories from ride hailing, ride sharing, e-car rentals to electric scooters. Cities and brands around the globe are adapting to accommodate this trend and the global micromobility market, which was valued at $40.19 billion in 2020, is projected to reach a staggering $195.42 billion by 2030!
Europe has seen the birth of a long list of startups in the shared micromobility and/or electric scooters space, each with its own unique offering for consumers. While a number of large American companies like Lyft and Uber introduced electric scooters first, according to an article by CNBC, at the end of 2020 European e-scooter rental startups had raised even more funding than their US counterparts. Brands are going out of their way to woo customers, from functional hardware features like removable batteries and secure charging to intuitive features like phone mounts and integrated dashboards with alerts.
These brands have totally changed in-city commute in Europe but the industry is still challenged by concerns around compliance, city level infrastructure and most importantly pedestrian safety. Since most cities were not designed around micromobility or the use of e-scooters, brands in this sector need to work very closely with city administrations to find the right balance between convenience, compliance and safety.
Berlin-based TIER for example, which is one of the leading brands in the space, rolled out a new Safety Pricing’ model earlier this year. Usually e-scooter riders are charged by time which might lead to risky behaviour such as riding on the pavement to avoid a traffic light. By not charging riders when vehicles are stationery, the company aims to reduce such recklessness. It is also participating in Ireland’s first e-scooter trial with DCU, The Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics and Luna which brings technology like computer vision and precise positioning to the micromobility space. The objective of the trial is to set the bar for e-scooter safety standards in Ireland and around the world.
Voi, another leading brand based out of Stockholm, also launched a large scale pilot for computer vision in e scooters in collaboration with Luna earlier this year. This pilot will help demonstrate how AI (Artificial intelligence) in e-scooters can help reduce ‘pavement riding’ which is a safety concern for both the rider as well as others on the pavement. The scooters will be fitted with technology to detect the surface the scooter is on and will also have alerts to help riders ride more appropriately.
Bolt is an Estonia-based micromobility provider that offers e scooters in more than 100 cities across Europe. Besides developing its own software and hardware which helps keep the costs down for end
users, Bolt’s focus on safety includes features that limits acceleration for beginners, built in sensors which detect accidents and unsafe riding plus educational features to help users learn how to ride safer.
Berlin-based Wind mobility, that specializes in e-scooters and e-bike rentals, has been on an e-scooter trial program with the Nottingham City Council since October last year. Among other things, the brand which boasts a vehicle lifetime of 5 years, focuses on customer safety through features such as integrated helmets and even built in hand sanitizers!
These are just some of the companies that have made an impact in the European market and while they continue to navigate infrastructure and other challenges, there is no denying that advantages like less pollution, flexibility, sustainability and super-low pricing, mean shared micromobility and e-scooters are here to stay.