This company wants to release a self-driving scooter by next year
When electric scooters descended upon the Bay Area, chaos came with them. The convenient mode of techie transportation turned into somewhat of an infestation as they cluttered sidewalks, were set ablaze – sometimes unintentionally – and waywardly flung into the Embarcadero.
It soon became clear that people weren't as annoyed by the scooters themselves as they were by the manner in which they were disposed. But a new self-driving scooter from Segway Ninebot may have resolved that issue – at least, for now.
Earlier this month, the Beijing-based company unveiled a new scooter model: the semi-autonomous "KickScooter T60," which can eerily return itself to a charging station without a driver. They're expected to hit the streets in China as early as next year and will begin road-testing next month.
"I believe scooters will replace bicycles as the prime solution for micro-mobility," Ninebot chairman and chief executive Gao Lufeng told Reuters. "It's human nature to save energy when commuting."
He added his belief that the AI-driven scooters, controlled remotely from the cloud, could "radically improve the economics of scooter sharing." Lufeng hopes to cut the cost of collecting the machines manually. While it's unclear whether similar self-driving scooters will roll into the Bay Area, it's worth considering how this technological update could affect individuals who collect and charge e-scooters as a side gig.
Yet, the once-lucrative business already seems to be fading out. Last June was thought to be the end of an era when scooters were temporarily banned in San Francisco. A month later, Oakland approved the introduction of 3,500 scooters to its streets.
But several former chargers told SFGate that the job has become increasingly less attractive as scooter chargers are more difficult to find – and the reward for their retrieval has diminished significantly. Oakland resident Ryan Trottier said he went from seeing bounties of $5 to $20 per scooter, to just a few dollars per find.
The KickScooter T60 will be the first of its kind in the world, designed in a trike style with rear-wheel drive intended for easier navigation. Its speeds can reach up to 20 miles per hour, and it's got two charging options: the aforementioned 'Poltergeist'-like manner of traveling to a charging dock by itself, or connecting to power wirelessly.
They'll be priced at 10,000 yeun, roughly $1,420.
Amanda Bartlett is an SFGate editorial assistant. Email: [email protected]