All posts in “Lime”

E-scooter companies really don’t want you to do this

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Just because you’re riding around on two wheels with a motor boosting you to 12 mph doesn’t mean you can stop paying attention. 

Just like distracted driving, distracted scooting is becoming a concern on the road. That’s why scooter-share company Bird says it joined AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign. Since 2010, the phone company has encouraged putting down the phone for texts, calls, and checking your email (and more), while driving. In 2018, the campaign includes all those behaviors — but on rentable e-scooters.

For confident scooter riders, the inclination to multitask while riding can be strong, as is the pull of the smartphone. The motorized devices may feel like a toy, but they’re considered a road vehicle, riding alongside cars, buses, bicycles, pedestrians, and other scooters. At least you better be off the sidewalk and in the bike lane, or riding along the edge of the road. 

PCI insurance group noted a recent study by Zendrive that found at least 69 million drivers in the U.S. use a phone while driving every day. What riders are willing to do behind the handlebars hasn’t been studied enough yet, but we can guess it’s just as pervasive a problem.

To promote safe scooting, Bird created a short video showing how that scooter selfie can result in a crash — or worse. The silent 7-second safety message is above.

Bird isn’t the only scooter company concerned about safe riding, or at least the liability of unsafe riding.

Last week their competitor Lime released its “Respect the Ride” safety campaign. The program includes a rider pledge, educational videos about safe scooter use and proper parking, and a $3 million commitment from the company toward public safety and education plans.

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A Lime spokesperson said this week that 75,000 people had signed the pledge. That might’ve been prompted by the lure of free helmets for the first 25,000 who pledged to ride safely. Lime plans to distribute 250,000 free helmets in cities across the globe in the next six months. The pledge helmets were mailed to signees.

In the fight against distracted scooting, Lime has plans to include a personalized screen with your user profile and info about your previous trips and saved locations on its next generation scooter. Maybe that’ll stave off the urge to connect to a smartphone. 

Lime last week also announced alongside e-scooter company Spin (which was just bought by Ford) an agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to study how the scooters are used. So more data will be shared with cities, starting with LA, and hopefully improve the streets for scooter users.

Distracted scooting comes up alongside drunken or impaired scooting, another e-scooter no-no. While distracted scooter riders can be harder for police and public safety officials to track down, intoxicated scooting can lead to real arrests and DUI records, like the 28-year-old who crashed into a pedestrian while three times over the legal limit on a Bird scooter in Los Angeles back in September.

Like this wine supplier points out, it’s important to learn what’s legal while on an e-scooter and not to drink and drive. The legal limit is the same as when driving a car. While you’re at it, put down the phone and just scoot.

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Lime is debuting its line of shareable vehicles in Seattle this week

Lime, the well-funded startup known for its fleet of brightly colored dockless bicycles and electric scooters, has a new way for its customers to get around: cars.

Beginning this week, Lime users in Seattle will be able to reserve a “LimePod,” a Lime-branded 2018 Fiat 500, within the Lime mobile app. There will be 50 cars available to start as part of the company’s initial rollout. Lime plans to increase that number at the end of the month.

“LimePods, Lime’s car-sharing product line, a convenient, affordable, weather-resistant mobility solution for communities,” a spokesperson for Lime said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “The ease of use of finding, unlocking, and paying for cars will be consistent with how riders use Lime scooters and e-bikes today.”

Lime will roll out 50 “LimePods” in Seattle this week.

Rides in the LimePod will cost $1 to unlock the car and 40 cents per minute of use. The company plans to unleash additional shareable cars in California early next year. Its scooters and e-bikes, for reference, are $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute and regular pedal bikes are $1 to unlock and 5 cents per minute.

Founded in 2017 by Berkeley graduates Toby Sun and Brad Bao, the startup has raised a total of $467 million to date from GV, Andreessen Horowitz, IVP, Section 32, GGV Capital and more. Reports indicate that Lime is on the fundraising circuit now, targeting a $3 billion valuation, or nearly 3x its latest valuation.

LimePods will be available to order in the Lime mobile app.

The company is expanding rapidly, most recently releasing a fleet of e-scooters and bikes in Australia, as well as making notable hires on what seems like a weekly basis. In the last month, Lime has tapped Joe Kraus, a general partner at Alphabet’s venture arm GV and an existing member of the startup’s board of directors, as its first chief operating officer. Before that, it brought on Uber’s former chief business officer David Richter as its first-ever chief business officer and interim chief financial officer.

In July, the company hired Peter Dempster from ReachNow to lead the LimePod initiative out of Seattle.

A tale of two scooter cities

The kids in Madrid’s El Retiro Park are loving their new on-demand joyriding toys. Lime launched its scooters in the Spanish capital this summer.

Spending a weekend in the city center last month the craze was impossible to miss. Scooters parked in clusters vying for pay-to-play time. Sometimes lined up tidily. All too often not.

The bright Lime rides really stood out, though it’s not the only brand in town. Scooter startups have been quick to hop on the international expansion bandwagon as they gun for growth.

Grandly proportioned El Retiro clearly makes a great spot for taking a scooter for a spin. Test rides beget joyrides, and so the kids were hopping on. Sometimes two to one.

The boulevard linking the Prado with the Reina Sofia was another popular route to scoot.

While a busy central bar district was a hot ride-ditching spot later on. Lines of scooters were vying for space with the vintage street bollards.

The appeal was obvious: Bowl up to the bar and drink! No worries about parking or how to get your ride home afterwards. But for Saturday night revellers there was suddenly a new piece of street furniture to lurch around, with slouching handlebars sticking up all over the place. Anyone trying to navigate the pavement in a wheelchair wouldn’t have had much fun.

In another of Spain’s big tourist cities the scooter story is a little different: Catalan capital Barcelona hasn’t had an invasion of on-demand scooter startups yet but scooters have crept in. In recent years locals have tapped in of their own accord — buying not renting.

Rides are a front-of-store sight in electronics shops, big and small — costing a few hundred euros. Even for a flashy Italian design…

Electronic scooters

Take a short walk in one of the more hipster barrios and chances are you’ll pass someone who’s bought into the craze for nipping around on two wheels. There’s lots of non-electric scooters too but e-scooters do seem to have carved out a growing niche for themselves with a certain type of Barcelona native.

Again, you can see the logic: Well-dressed professionals can zip around narrow streets that aren’t always great for finding a place to (safely) lock up a bike.

There’s actually a pretty wide variety of wheeled e-rides in play for locals with the guts to get on them. Some with seats and/or handles, others with almost nothing. (The hands-in-pockets hipsters on self-balancing unicycles are quite the sight.)

In both of these Spanish cities it’s clear people are falling for — and, well, sometimes off — the micro-mobility trend.

But the difference between the on-demand scooters being toyed with in Madrid vs Barcelona’s locally owned two wheelers is a level of purpose and intent.

The Lime rides in Madrid’s center seemed mostly a tourist novelty. At least for now, having only had a couple of months to bed in.

Whereas the organic growth of scooters in Barcelona barrios is about people who live there feeling a need.

Even the unicycling hipsters seem to be actually on their way somewhere.

Hop on

What does this mean for scooter startups? It’s another example of how technology’s utility and wider societal impacts can vary when you parachute a new thing into a market and hope people jump on board vs growth being organic and more gradual because it’s led by real-world demand.

And it’s essential to think about impacts where scooters and micro-mobility is concerned because all this stuff must piggyback on shared public spaces. No one has the luxury of being able to avoid what’s buzzing up and down their street.

That’s why lots of on-demand scooters have ended up trashed and vandalized — as residents make their feelings known (having not been asked about the alien invaders in the first place).

In Europe there’s a further twist because the spaces scooter startups are seeking to colonize are already well served with all sorts of public transport options. So there’s a clear and present danger that these new kids on the block won’t displace anything. And will just mean more traffic and extra congestion — as happened with ride-hailing.

In Madrid, the first tranche of on-demand scooters seems to be generating pretty superficial and additive use. Offering a novel alternative to walking between sights or bars on a trip to-do list. Just possibly they’re replacing a short taxi or metro hop.

In the park, they were being used 100% for fun. Perhaps takings are down at the boating lake.

Barcelona has plenty of electro-powered joyriding down at the beach front in summer — where shops rent all sorts of wheels to tourists by the hour. But away from the beach locals don’t seem to be wasting scooter charge riding in circles.

They’re stepping out for regular trips like commuting to and from work. In other words, scooters are useful.

Given all this activity and engagement micro-mobility does seem to offer genuine transformative potential in dense urban environments. At least where the climate doesn’t punish for most of the year.

This is why investors are so hot on scooters. But the additive nature of micro-mobility underlines a pressing need for the technology to be properly steered if cities, residents and societies are to get the best benefits.

Scooters could certainly replace some moped trips. Even some local car journeys. So they could play an important role in reducing pollution and noise by taking trips away from petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles.

Because they offer a convenient, low-barrier-to-entry alternative with populist pull.

Not being too high speed also means, in and of themselves, they’re fairly safe.

If you’re just barrio hopping or can map most of your social life across a few city blocks there’s no doubting their convenience. Novelty is not the only lure.

Hop off

Though, equally, the local-level journeys that scooters are best suited for could just as easily be completed on foot, by bike or via public transit options like a metro.

And Barcelona’s congested streets don’t look any less packed with petrol engines — yet.

Which means scooters are both an opportunity and a risk.

If policymakers get the regulations right, a smart city could leverage their fun factor to nudge commuters away from more powerful but less environmentally friendly vehicles — with, potentially, some very major gains up for grabs.

Subsidized scooters coupled with a framework of congestion zones that levy fees on petrol/diesel engines is one simple example.

A clever policy could open the possibility of excluding cars almost entirely from city centers — so that streets could be reclaimed for new leisure and retail opportunities that don’t demand masses of parking space on tap.

Pollution is a chronic problem in almost all large cities in the world. So reshaping city centers to be more people-centric and less toxic to human health by displacing cars would be an incredible win for micro-mobility.

Even as the hop on, hop off ease of scooters offers a suggestive glimpse of what’s possible if we dare to rethink urban architecture to put people rather than four-wheeled vehicles first.

Yet get the policy wrong and scooters could end up — at very best — a frivolous irrelevance. A joyride that disrupts going nowhere. Yet another nuisance on already choked streets. An optional extra that feels disposable and gets rudely discarded because no one feels invested.

In this scenario the technology is not socially transformative. It’s more likely an antisocial nuisance. And a pointless drain on resources because it’s doing no more than disrupting walking.

Scooter startups have already run into some of these issues. And that’s not surprising given how fast they’ve been trying to grow. Their early expansionist playbook does also risk looking like Uber all over again.

Yet Uber could have pioneered micro-mobility itself. But being ‘laser focused on growth’ seemingly gave the company tunnel vision. Only now, under a new CEO, it’s all change. Now Uber wants to be a one-stop platform for all sorts of transport options.

But how many years did it waste missing the disruptive potential of micro-mobility coming down the road because it was too busy trying to fit more cars into cities — and ignoring how residents felt about that?

An obsession with growth at all costs may well be a side effect of major VC dollars flooding in. But for startups it really does pay to stay self-aware, perhaps especially when you’re rolling in money. Else you might find your investors funding your biggest blind spot — if you end up missing the next even more transformative disruption.

The really clever trick to pull off is not ‘scale fast or die trying’; it’s smart growth that’s predicated upon applying innovative technologies in ways that bring whole communities along with them. That’s true transformation.

For scooters that means not just dumping them on cities without any thought beyond creaming a profit off of anything that moves. But getting residents and communities engaged with the direction of travel. Partnering with people and policymakers on the right incentives to steer innovation onto its best track.

Move people around cities, yes, and shift them out of their cars.

There’s little doubt that Uber’s old ‘growth at any cost’ playbook was hugely wasteful and damaging (not least to the company’s own reputation). And now it’s having to retrofit a more inclusive approach at the same time as unpicking an ‘environmentally insensitive’ legacy that original playbook really doesn’t look so smart.

Scooter startups are still young and have made some of their own mistakes trying to chase early scale. But there are reasons to be cheerful about this new crop of mobility startups too.

Signs they see value and opportunities in being pro-actively engaged with the environments they’re operating in. Having also learnt some hard early lessons about the need to be very sensitive to shared spaces.

Bird announced a program this summer offering discounted rides to people on low incomes, for example. Lime has a similar program.

These are small but interesting steps. Here’s hoping we’re going to see a lot more.

Lime brings electric bike and scooter sharing to Australia

Electric scooter and bike sharing company Lime has rolled into Australia, launching in Sydney on Friday.

The Californian company’s bright green, dockless electric vehicles have been released into the streets, with 300 e-bikes distributed through Sydney to start and e-scooters to come soon.

Melbourne will be next, with preview electric scooter rides offered for locals heading to and from the Melbourne Cup horse race on Tuesday, and a three-month scooter pilot launched at Monash University in Melbourne earlier this week.

Although folks across the U.S. have endured Lime for over a year, Australians might not be familiar with how they work. The vehicles run on a replaceable lithium battery, which can be swapped out by one of 50 operations employees across the city every two days. The bikes can reach up to 23.8km/h, even on hilly terrain.

The service works through the Lime app, which allows you to scan the area for vehicles. As far as pricing goes, it’ll cost you $1 to unlock a vehicle and 30 cents per minute.

Pick your Lime vehicle.

Pick your Lime vehicle.

Image: mashable screenshot

Lime says it’s been working with local authorities in Sydney to make sure they can weave into the existing transport network.

“Lime’s electric bikes have become hugely popular in cities, similar to Sydney, such as Seattle, whose community is looking for cleaner, cheaper and more accessible transportation,” said Mitchell Price, director of government affairs and strategy in Australia and New Zealand, in a press statement.

“The advantage of our electric bikes is they work together with existing public transit by increasing the accessibility of public transport so people can rely less on personal cars.

“Sydney’s need for innovative transport solutions, which cater to the first and last mile, gives us confidence we will see high uptake of Lime electric bikes within the community,” he added.

Lime in New Zealand.

Lime in New Zealand.

Image: lime

Although it currently operates in more than 100 cities around the world, in Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and more, Lime’s Australian endeavor marks a further foray for the company into the Southern Hemisphere. Lime launched its e-scooters into the New Zealand cities of Auckland and Christchurch in October, as New Zealand’s first ever scooter program. Lime saw the cities cap scooter numbers in Auckland and Christchurch are 1,000 and 700 respectively.

Like other cities across the globe, including Sydney, Lime worked closely with the New Zealand Transport Agency, Christchurch City Council, and Auckland Transport to integrate the scooters into the existing transport system.

“It’s [the scooter program] exactly the kind of thing we want. Zero emissions, and a lot of fun.” Christchurch Councilwoman Vicki Buck said in a press statement.

The introduction of a new ride-share program may trigger some negative feelings for Australians

The introduction of a new ride-share program may trigger some negative feelings for Australians, who have watched cities around the country struggling to deal with mass dumpings of bike-share vehicles over the past 12 months — a terrible trend observed globally, but most notoriously in cities in China. Implementing scooter caps like New Zealand’s may alleviate some of these fears, and the fact that Lime is working with local authorities from the get-go is positive — local councils around the world, including those in Australia, had to clean up the bike-sharing mess after the fact. 

Lime itself has seen decent legislation implemented in some U.S. cities attempting to control scooter dumping. Some cities have identified geo-fenced areas as no-parking zones, and Lime is rolling out new screens on its Generation 3 e-scooters that will make it clearer to riders where these zones are. 

Australia seems to have implemented these no-parking zones, as the app shows areas in red where you can’t park the bikes and scooters.

Red means a no parking zone.

Red means a no parking zone.

Image: mashable screenshot

Aside from the well-worn bike-share path, there’s also the question of whether Australians will pick up the electric scooter trend, which has had a year to settle into the U.S with Lime, alongside competitors like San Francisco-based scooter-share startups Spin and Scoot, the Uber-owned Jump, Lyft-owned Motivate, and Santa Monica-based main player Bird.

Singaporean bike service oBike withdrew from the Australian market in June, with Chinese company Ofo following suit in July.

Whether they’re ready or not, however, Lime has landed.

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Lime pulls faulty e-scooters after reports of battery fires

Not so smooth scooting for Lime.
Not so smooth scooting for Lime.

Image: Chesnot/Getty Images

E-scooter company Lime is cautioning riders and contract workers about malfunctioning batteries and other issues with some of its scooters.

Lime uses Segway Ninebot scooters in many of its cities, but after an August report about battery issues in “several” units, faulty scooters are being pulled from the fleet. What Lime calls a manufacturing defect sometimes led to smoldering batteries, which would then catch fire. Lime called these “isolated instances.”

Back in August, Lime worked with Segway Ninebot to digitally monitor batteries for faulty units, which would then prompt a scooter deactivation. Lime says this affected scooters in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Lake Tahoe. 

Now, Lime says the company’s received an “unconfirmed report” about another Segway Ninebot scooter model that may have similar battery issues. Understandably, it’s prompted some immediate fixes.

Lime recently unveiled its Gen 3 scooter, which utilizes gear from other manufacturers. But since there are still Segway Ninebots out there, Lime is only allowing charging of those models in its own storage facilities, instead of having contract workers charge them. 

In a blog post this week, Lime said the battery problem affects .01 percent of its scooter fleet, but it’s still concerned about its riders’ safety and its network of chargers, called Juicers.

An email went out to Juicers on Wednesday summarizing the blog post and reiterating that all Segway Ninebot scooter home charging is temporarily suspended. The email went on to assure contract workers that the company is “grateful” for their support and “cares deeply” about their safety.  

Lime says it has a new daily diagnostic testing program in place for all its scooters’ batteries, no matter the manufacturer. At Lime storage facilities where scooters are being charged, 24-hour on-duty teams will keep an eye on the batteries.

A separate issue with Lime’s Okai-manufactured scooters was also revealed this week. When ridden off a curb at high speeds, the baseboard can crack or break. Lime said it’s “studying the issue,” which happens only when scooters are used improperly. It called the type of riding that leads to broken boards “repeated abuse.” 

Bird’s newest scooter also uses Okai. We reached out to Bird to see if its Okai scooters had experienced any issues.

Another scooter manufacturer, Xiaomi, reportedly has asked Lyft to stop using its scooters. In a letter obtained by TechCrunch, the Chinese scooter maker says Lyft never asked to use, modify, or reference the brand. The letter states “We also do not condone Lyft’s unauthorized modification or retrofitting of our electric scooters for general public use.”

It’s tough scooting these days.

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