Uber is exploring autonomous bikes and scooters

Uber is looking to integrate autonomous technology into its bike and scooter-share programs. Details are scarce, but according to 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, who said Uber announced this at a DIY Robotics event over the weekend, the division will live inside Uber’s JUMP group, which is responsible for shared electric bikes and scooters. I’m […]

Uber is looking to integrate autonomous technology into its bike and scooter-share programs. Details are scarce, but according to 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, who said Uber announced this at a DIY Robotics event over the weekend, the division will live inside Uber’s JUMP group, which is responsible for shared electric bikes and scooters.

The new division, Micromobility Robotics, will explore autonomous scooters and bikes that can drive themselves to be charged, or drive themselves to locations where riders need them. The Telegraph has since reported Uber has already begun hiring for this team.

“The New Mobilities team at Uber is exploring ways to improve safety, rider experience, and operational efficiency of our shared electric scooters and bicycles through the application of sensing and robotics technologies,” Uber’s ATG wrote in a Google Form seeking information from people interested in career opportunities.

Back in December, Uber unveiled its next generation of JUMP bikes, with self-diagnostic capabilities and swappable batteries. The impetus for the updated bikes came was the need to improve JUMP’s overall unit economics.

“That is a major improvement to system utilization, the operating system, fleet uptime and all of the most critical metrics about how businesses are performing with running a shared fleet,” JUMP Head of Product Nick Foley told TechCrunch last month. “Swappable batteries mean you don’t have to take vehicles back to wherever you charge a bike or scooter, and that’s good for the business.”

Autonomous bikes and scooters would make Uber’s shared micromobility business less reliant on humans to charge the vehicles. You could envision a scenario where Uber deploys freshly-charged bikes and scooters to areas where other vehicles are low on juice. Combine that with swappable batteries (think about Uber quickly swapping in a new battery once the vehicle makes it back to the warehouse and then immediately re-deploying that bike or scooter), and Uber has itself a well-oiled machine that increases vehicle availability and improves the overall rider experience.

I’ve reached out to Uber and will update this story if I hear back.

Lime launches electric-assist bikes in its first UK city

Lime launched in the United Kingdom today, starting with a group of dockless electric-assist bikes in a Milton Keynes shopping center. The San Francisco-based startup says it plans to expand into more UK cities over the next few weeks. As in other markets, users in Milton Keynes find and unlock Lime’s bikes, which use battery-powered […]

Lime launched in the United Kingdom today, starting with a group of dockless electric-assist bikes in a Milton Keynes shopping center. The San Francisco-based startup says it plans to expand into more UK cities over the next few weeks.

As in other markets, users in Milton Keynes find and unlock Lime’s bikes, which use battery-powered motors to reduce pedaling and travel further distances, through a mobile app. Bike rides cost £1 (about $1.28) to unlock and an additional 15 pence per minute of riding time and will be available first at intu Milton Keynes Shopping Centre.

Backed by investors like Uber, GV, and Andreessen Horowitz with $467 million in funding so far, Lime recently said it had hit a milestone of 11.5 million rides, only 14 months after its bikes first became available to riders. The company already operates in 100 markets through the United States and Europe and plans to launch in 50 new cities by the end of this year.

But LIme’s rapid growth hasn’t come without bumps. Along with competitors Bird and Spin, Lime was one of the companies involved in San Francisco’s war on electric scooters when they ran afoul of the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). The SFMTA said e-scooters created obstacles and potentially safety hazards. This ultimately resulted in Lime being denied an e-scooter permit in August, a decision it appealed.

By choosing Milton Keynes as its first UK city, however, Lime intent on preventing conflicts by working with a city that is more receptive to transportation startups. Milton Keynes was the site of an initiative called MK: Smart to integrate more Internet of Things hardware. The project was followed by CityLABS, a program that supports data and IoT startups. In its announcement, Lime said it “will be working closely with city leaders and stakeholders to ensure the fair and respectful distribution of the service across the area.”