Here’s an idea from the future arriving sooner than we thought, ebikes equipped with some of the safety features we expect to see in autonomous vehicles. Remember when AVs were about to take over all our roads and we dreamed of sitting back in a lounge, working or watching tele while we rode along the highway to the next city?
Well that hasn’t quite happened yet because of issues such as safety. Although a car can make a decision to avoid killing its passengers, how do we feel if the only way that can happen is at the cost of some innocent pedestrians.
Now some of the tech that’s been developed for cars is becoming a thing in share e-bikes or scooters.
Micromobility service (get used to that term) Beam Mobility will soon roll out its fifth generation e-scooter, featuring augmented riding safety or (MARS) technology, which uses AR technology to allow Beam’s e-scooters able to slow down when they detect pedestrians, adjust speed to something that responds to the particular road surface you on, and at the same time detect edges of roads and footpaths.
The tech also uses sensors to detect aggressive or intoxicated rider behaviour. Now, when did we last hear your bike won’t let you start the engine because you’re breathing over the limit?
The electric micromobility company claims to be the Asia Pacific’s largest micromobility operator, with more than 5300 bikes in 15 Australian cities and a trip taken every two seconds.
This safety solution takes technology from automated driving and applies it to e-scooters
“We are really excited about bringing this technology to market,” Tom Cooper, manager of Beam Australia New Zealand told The Fifth Estate.
The technology “will provide significant advancements in safety, city zoning control, rider behaviour management, and sustainability,” said the company’s chief technology officer, Deb Gangopadhyay.
“This is the first time this technology has been used in the Asia-Pacific region. It takes technology from automated driving and applies it to e-scooters.”
The technology is already overseas with location-based and sensor-based safety features from companies like Voi in Europe and Bird and Skip in the US.
Although in Australia electric micromobility is being touted as a key piece of the transportation of tomorrow, there are still hurdles to overcome with safety and legislative requirements, which vary state to state.
Mr Cooper says that the e-mopeds and seated scooters are still not legal in Australia and New Zealand, but the company is working towards launching electric mopeds in the near future. And while helmets are a requirement in Australia and New Zealand, in other parts of the world they are not.
The company developed helmet locks that unlocked via the mobile app. The tech can now make sure that the vehicles will be safer for pedestrians and riders . Restrictions by local councils such as parking or speed can also be factored into the technology.
The technology will “ensure that our vehicles are equipped with the ability to sense or see pedestrians and slow to avoid hitting them, or to emit a noise so that pedestrians can hear it coming, depending on the situation.”
MARS is an AI technology that uses a camera on the vehicle to detect the kind of surface it is riding on, whether it’s a footpath or road, and alter the speed. The software is continuously improving as it is “taught”, and becomes smarter.
“All vehicles are fitted with sensors that can detect if someone is aggressively accelerating or braking. If this continues it sends a warning to the rider to slow down, through the mobile app which is fitted with a phone holder. If it then continues it will automatically slow down.”
Detecting geofencing rules such as no parking zones, slow zones, and designated parking spots, is increasingly accurate, he says, particularly through using the internet of things (IOT).
“Previously accuracy was within 10 metres, and now it is at one to two metres in terms of accuracy when travelling at speed – and even within 10 cm if you’re moving slowly.”
IOT refers to objects embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet or communications networks.
This allows the technology to have precise position accuracy – providing better precision than smartphones.
In early March the company raised a Series B funding round of US$93 million (roughly AUD$127 million) led by private equity firm Affirma Capital, with participation from Sequoia Capital India, Hana Ventures, ICT Capital, EDBI, AC Ventures, RTP Global, and Momentum Venture Capital, among others. This allowed the company to expand into 16 additional cities in the Australia and New Zealand region.
The company says that this new technology will create 500 new jobs in Australia in 2022. It also plans to establish a research and development hub in Australia for innovation development.
In 2022 the company plans to launch in three additional countries, bringing the vehicles and technology into new markets in Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Turkey, and to add e-mopeds to its fleet in several countries.