If you see an electric scooter trundling along the street by itself in the not-too-distant future, do not be alarmed. It’s probably on its way to a charging station.
Segway-Ninebot, currently the largest scooter supplier for smartphone-based services such as Bird and Lime, has unveiled a semi-autonomous scooter that can make its way to a charging station when its battery runs low.
The KickScooter T60 will begin road testing in September 2019, with availability to scootersharing services slated for the first quarter of 2020.
At the current time, scootersharing companies pay teams of people to gather up the scooters for recharging at the end of each day. While not exactly good news for those collectors who rather like the idea of holding onto their job, a scooter that can pretty much make its own way to a charging station will obviously be of interest to scootershare companies as they look to streamline their operations.
The KickScooter T60 could also help to restore order to particular streets where scooters are commonly left at the end of rides as the vehicle could take itself to a proper parking spot for the next rider instead of blocking the sidewalk. Even better, the T60 also raises the prospect of a service where you wouldn’t even have to locate a scooter, as it could come straight to you via a few taps on your smartphone.
According to a video (above) showing the scooter in action, Segway-Ninebot’s new three-wheeler includes obstacle-avoidance sensors, but also has someone remotely guiding the vehicle to the charging station. In other words, human operatives would still be needed, though possibly fewer than required for the current collection process.
The new KickScooter T60 will be priced at close at around 10,000 Chinese yuan (about $1,420), making it considerably more expensive than its other scooters, which it sells to scootersharing companies for between $100 and $300 per vehicle. For general retail, its less advanced KickScooters currently cost between $549 and $769.
Segway-Ninebot told Reuters that Uber and Lyft would be the first customers for the new scooter, though a Lyft spokesperson said that while it was interested to see the technology, it hadn’t yet made a decision on whether to commit to the product. Uber declined to comment.
But even if a scootersharing company wants to incorporate the vehicle into its fleet, they’ll first have to convince city regulators that remote operation of the vehicle poses no threat to street safety.
We’ve reached out to Segway-Ninebot for more information on the T60 and asked if any scootersharing operators have inked a deal, and will update this piece if we hear back.