How the connected eScooter is conquering urban traffic
If you’ve been on the streets of Berlin at some point in the past few months, you were sure to have seen them: black and mint-green two-wheelers that whoosh past with a quiet hum.
Your coworker uses it to commute to work, your next-door neighbor takes it to her Pilates class, and the students who live across the street drive it to go swimming in the local lake.
Behind these zippy two-wheelers is COUP, an app-controlled eScooter-sharing platform. Its mission: to conquer urban traffic using connected eScooters.
So how do you revolutionize urban traffic, anyway?
First things first: Identify urban traffic problems
Rush hour gridlock, a dearth of parking spaces, or mile-long detours through the city: “urban traffic” is shorthand for stress, frustration, and time not spent actually living.
Drivers in the ten most-congested cities in the United States sit for around 42 hours in traffic jams every year, wasting more than 121 billion dollars in time and fuel while doing so.
In 2025, traffic jams in major European cities will result in annual costs of some 208 billion euros.
More than half the world’s population now lives in cities and an additional 25% commute to work from suburbs. In other words, our lives are heavily dependent on personal mobility.
One solution that seeks to counteract this trend is shared mobility: this sector will be worth 30 billion euros by the year 2025 and will account for 80% of the mobility market by 2050.
At long last, driving in cities will again be fun and stress-free. eScooter-sharing platform COUP had the same idea. A full Bosch subsidiary, the start-up launched operations in August 2016 with 200 eScooters in the German capital. In less than a year, the team has expanded the fleet to a current total of 1,000.
How can megacity dwellers take advantage of this offer?
It’s all about the app
The way to tap the potential of the two-wheeler fleet is an app. Using Bluetooth Low Energy, the app connects the driver’s smartphone with the scooter. Drivers can see where the nearest available eScooter is located, unlock and lock it, and also pay using the app.
But what happens when the battery runs out? The connectivity of the vehicles provides information such as charge status. The fleet team keeps an eye on all eScooters and replaces dead batteries – throughout their entire business area.
The scooters have a range of up to 100 km with a maximum speed of 45 kph.
Talk to your customers
August 2016 saw the launch of the platform in four districts of Berlin; since then, COUP has been gradually expanding its fleet. Customers were involved in the process right from the start. The company conducted user tests and gathered direct feedback on the service and the technologies used. As the area covered by the sharing platform expands this year almost to as far as Berlin’s inner suburban train line, the process is focused on customer input.
Open ecosystem: sharing is caring
Open ecosystems are relevant in shared mobility, too: the platform is based on a collaboration with Asian start-up Gogoro, which sells connected electric scooters around the world.
Gogoro has been running its own e-mobility scheme in the cities of Taiwan since 2015. Customers there have to buy the scooter, whereas the Berlin model offers flexible rental times without requiring users to purchase the actual scooter. Gogoro and COUP are focused on delivering new services that encourage consumer adoption of more sustainable transportation choices like the smart scooter.
This vision is now poised for implementation in another European city. Starting in July 2017, 600 eScooters will be deployed on the streets of one of Europe’s most traffic-plagued cities: Paris.