Sensing for Safety: How Skip Uses Cameras to Make Scooters Smarter and Safer

From: Shalin Mantri

Skip has been leading the way in developing scooters that can observe and respond to their surroundings. Today we’re excited to begin testing cameras in our fleet in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.. It’s our next step towards using intelligent sensors to make light electric vehicle sharing better for riders, cities, and communities.

The Power of Good Sense

Our vehicles today are based on scooters built for personal use, but only on the surface. We’ve implemented advanced onboard sensors, an operating system with over-the-air updates, high-speed wireless connectivity, industry-leading GPS accuracy, and an electronic locking mechanism. In all of this work, we’ve considered not just the needs of riders, but also of pedestrians, cyclists, city planners, administrators, and more.

Today, let’s talk about cameras.

Our hardware and sensors team, drawing on their knowledge from great companies like Amazon, Apple, Motorola, Uber, and Boosted, have incorporated a camera sensor similar to the one found in modern smartphones and dash cameras. Our goal in each of our sensor systems is to test their ability to solve some our core goals: better parking behavior, better riding etiquette, better rider safety, and a reliable and convenient service.

Parking, Riding, and Finding Vehicles

Addressing the parking problem is high priority for transportation departments, community groups, and neighborhoods — and rightfully so. No one wants scooters littering city streets or blocking pathways.

While education helps, technology may be able to get us to proper parking much faster. Cameras have the potential to identify parking that isn’t upright or in the “furniture zone,” that space adjacent to the curb and out of the walkway. Incorrect parking could automatically inform riders to fix the issue before ending their trip (instead of taking photos), or follow up with riders on how to improve their parking score in the future. As a bonus, better-parked scooters are also easier to find for the next rider.

Riders and pedestrians are safest when scooters are ridden in the bike lane, and we fully support efforts towards more protected bike lanes in every city. A ground-facing camera sensor could be used to detect sidewalk riding and provide feedback to riders after their ride or even reduce operating speeds.

Finally, it’s crucial for our vehicles to be where riders think they are. GPS can sometimes be unreliable, placing the scooter somewhere along one or two city blocks. Sharing a Street View-style picture of the scooter’s surroundings with a prospective rider could dramatically improve the experience of finding it.

There’s also an opportunity to leverage other sensors to localize the scooters more accurately (taking cues from the autonomous vehicle industry) — but we’ll save that topic for another post!

Starting this week, we have released a new fleet of camera-enabled scooters in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. We believe in carefully considering our riders’ privacy in our product iterations. For this new fleet of scooters, we will not take pictures of riders in any personally identifiable way.

We believe that successful light electric vehicle sharing depends on building the safest, most intelligent vehicles possible. We’re excited to be bringing our ideas into testing, and we invite our industry partners, those of you interested in building this technology with us, and most importantly our riders to join us in this exciting journey ahead!

We’d also love to hear your thoughts, so please drop us a line at hello@skipscooters.com.

Better neighborhood transportation

Better neighborhood transportation