Pedestrians in the Santa Monica area have been dealing with e-scooter riders for a number of years now, but new technology could change riders’ capabilities. Santa Monica is the first city in the United States to receive this technology, which is slated to be available beginning July 1, 2021.
In July, Spin, Santa Monica’s leading micromobility company, is just one of three companies chosen to participate in the area’s second shared mobility pilot program that will introduce sidewalk detection technology – which could prevent riders from driving on sidewalks by producing a response.
According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, sidewalk riding is a serious issue across Los Angeles. It significantly increases the risk of e-scooters colliding with pedestrians. While Santa Monica banned sidewalk riding in 2019, city officials and the participating e-scooter companies realize that the regulation is difficult to enforce.
With Spin’s e-scooters, the vehicles will emit a warning sound and send a push notification to the rider when the technology detects someone has taken the electric scooters onto a sidewalk. According to Phuong Bui, Government Partnerships Manager at Spin, the company may also build a function where the scooters slow to a stop on sidewalks if that’s something the city is interested in.
Spin’s sidewalk detection uses a combination of machine learning, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. Bui said, “All of the images will be processed onboard the scooter, which will analyze the images in real-time and be able to decipher, with over 95 percent accuracy, where the user is.”
While the e-scooter company Bird was also looking to launch sidewalk detect on its Bird 2 devices this year, Santa Monica did not choose Bird to participate in the second shared mobility pilot program. Bird is attempting to appeal this decision, but a decision has not been made.
Unlike Spin’s technology, Bird’s technology does not use cameras but rather GPS mapping of the city’s streets and sidewalks. According to Director of Government Partnerships Tim Harter, “Using the GIS City data that’s available, we’ve been comparing that with our internal data on our millions of trips in Santa Monica and mapping out the city to know when our receivers go on sidewalks.” If a Bird 2 device is on a sidewalk, it will beep, slow down to a stop, and the user will receive a message telling them to return to the roadway.
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