Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart ci Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart cities, and the future of alternative energy sources like electric batteries, solar, and hydrogen.
This week, escooter company Bird launched the latest tech to stop bad rider behavior. The Bird VPS (Visual Parking System) was shown on stage at Google I/O, demonstrating the latest tech to monitor escooter parking.
The tool is powered by Google’s ARCore Geospatial API, enabling Bird to geo-localize parked scooters with pinpoint accuracy. This is achieved by taking advantage of the tech giant’s years of 3D scanning, global Street View data, and augmented reality technology.
Let’s look at how it works and what it aims to achieve.
How Does Bird VPS Work?
When parking a scooter, the app prompts a rider to quickly scan the QR code on the vehicle and its surrounding area using their smartphone camera.
Then, Bird VPS compares the rider images against Google data and Street View images in real-time.
According to Bird, this results in precise, centimeter-level geolocation that enables the system to detect and prevent improper parking with extreme accuracy — all while helping monitor user behavior.
Bird VPS is either already being piloted — or will immediately be rolling out — in various cities, including New York City and Madrid.
Tech is the weapon of choice against bad riders
Bird’s not the only company using tech to ensure that its riders follow the rules. Superpedestrian (LINK escooters) developed software to detect and protect against more than 100 common malfunctions and detect dangerous behavior — such as riding on the sidewalk, riding the wrong way down a one-way street, or aggressive swerving.
The software can slow down and stop rides autonomously, as well as alerting riders to rule violations.
Bird is also tackling the problem of drunk riding, trialing an in-app checkpoint called Safe Start in the US. Between 10pm and 4am local time, riders attempting to unlock a Bird are asked to verify that they can safely handle the vehicle by correctly entering a keyword into the app.
Those who may be under the influence are encouraged to choose an alternative method of transport, such as a taxi or ride-hailing service.
The reality is that idiots are everywhere. But when the idiots are riding scooters, their behavior tends to be amplified, with the finger pointed at micromobility companies.
Just this morning, a friend sent me this photo of someone riding an escooter on an underground train platform.
But escooter hire companies work really hard in a highly competitive market to build good relationships with the cities they serve, and to encourage riders to comply with local laws.
The Bird VPS technology will be a valuable part of its arsenal next time it bids for a city contract. There’s still a lot to be done to make micromobility a functioning part of urban areas — and it’s fantastic to see intriguing initiatives like this pushing the sector forward
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.