Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ford Uses New Scooter Purchase and Sensors to Help Make Scooter Drivers Safer


Not too long ago Ford Motor Company acquired a much smaller transportation company… Spin.  While not a direct competitor to Ford, the much smaller company is in the mobility business.  Spin is one of a new generation of companies that are working to make rentable electric scooters available to riders in metropolitan areas.

The difference between the 2 companies, of course, is obvious, but Ford is now making a move to make short distance transportation on 2 wheels considerably safer for the drivers.

Ford has a preexisting research relationship with Virginia Tech and the 2 entities have now agreed to work together on a project/study to evaluate the way users use and interact with a scooter.  The company will be delivering 300 of their electric scooters (e-scooter for short) to the campus.  Mixed in with 250 “normal” scooters will be 50 others that will be used to conduct the research.  Those scooters will be equipped with several sensor types that include gyroscopes, accelerometers, and forward facing cameras.  The idea is that users will take the scooters for a spin and while doing so will provide an influx of data that will then allow researchers to better understand users and their actions.

E-scooters have become incredibly popular in the last 5 years.  There are several companies attempting to capitalize on the idea by providing scooters for rent in areas where their use would be the most valuable.  Places such as inner cities, shopping districts, and universities are suddenly finding scooters in some central locations, but also simply sitting around on the sidewalk available to rent.

As the fad has caught on, injuries are starting to occur and, of course, as the number of users increases, so does the number of injuries.  At this point in time, our knowledge of how we interact with scooters is very limited, but Ford is hoping to use this study to bring in tons of data that, up until now, has not been available to scientists.  The research data can hopefully help scientists to better understand human behavior or scooters as well as ways to make the experience safer whether that is through changing the scooters or better educating the riders.

As we better understand things, smart people can then help the rest of us do what we do even better.

According to Wired magazine:

“We’re looking at how the infrastructure as it’s built and maintained today affects safety and how people ride,” says Mike Mollenhauer, the director of VTTI’s Center for Technology Implementation and the principal investigator on the project. “What leads up to a particular [crash] event, and what could we do to solve that?” Depending on the results, this research could also lead Spin to make hardware changes in its scooters, says Ted Sweeney, a senior manager of public policy for the company. It might change its approach to rider education or find new ways of punishing inconsiderate or risky scooting.

So here’s hoping that this little experiment and study will provide lots of new and exciting information that helps make our world and the way get around in that world a little safer.

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