Using GPS technology to prevent unsafe rides
Riding an electric scooter on the sidewalk is dangerous, but scooter-sharing companies have struggled to keep their customers from engaging in risky behavior. Bird thinks he’s found a solution: annoying beeps.
Using technology provided by a company called U-blox, Bird is rolling out an end-to-end GPS system “designed to deliver centimeter-level accuracy specifically for the micromobility industry.” ” Riders wandering the pavement will be bombarded with audio alerts from scooters as well as notifications on their smartphones, warning them to get back on the road. Failure to follow instructions results in a de-powered scooter: the vehicle will slow down and eventually stop.
The problem Bird is trying to solve appears to be a difficult one. Riders find it difficult to track down the scooters available when they want one. And scooters sometimes block sidewalks, obstructing passages for wheelchairs and other pedestrians with mobility concerns. They all stop at a handful of locations instead of being spread evenly around a city. And cities have complained that companies have failed to stock enough scooters in low-income and minority communities to ensure equitable distribution across economic lines.
Lime says it uses “a sophisticated statistical model”. With 95 percent accuracy to determine when a scooter has hit the pavement. Other scooter companies have invested in remote-operation technology, including cameras and other sensors, to improve fleet management. These front- and rear-facing built-in cameras enable remote operators to move the scooter when they are blocking pavement or road traffic. They may also make it possible for e-scooters to travel multiple blocks for riders.
But Bird claims that its GPS-based solution is easier and cheaper than expensive camera-based systems. It also says that U-blox’s ZED-F9R module (the big name) will make it easier for customers to find scooters nearby, even in cities with high-rise buildings that usually obstruct satellite signals. Huh. It works like this:
The ZED-F9R is a dual-band multi-constellation GNSS receiver that supports up to 8 times more satellite signal types and 4 times more constellations (GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and BeiDou) than standard solutions. The module processes real-time vehicle data including IMU sensor data, including wheel speed, acceleration and spatial orientation, and real-time kinematic data that corrects for ionospheric interference. The technology has also been optimized for the e-scooter by applying dynamic models matching the speed of the vehicle.
Bird is also using “centimeter-level pavement mapping” to determine when the scooter has moved off the road and onto the sidewalk. This allows the company to create a geofence that deactivates the scooter’s throttle when it enters the prohibited area. centimeter level, you say? how?
Phase 1: It begins with a geofence outline made from satellite imagery or City GIS data.
Phase 2: From here, we use survey tools to measure the location of the three city landmarks. Only a few measurements are needed for each city.
step 3: Once landmarks are identified, we compare their location to satellite imagery to determine offset and rotation.
step 4: We then use these offset and rotation values to shift and transform each of our original geofence outlines.
Step 5: Finally, after updating our geofence outlines, they are pre-loaded onto our vehicles to eliminate latency.
Bird says it will test the new system in scooters stationed in Milwaukee and San Diego, with Madrid soon to follow. If all goes well, the company plans to roll it out to the rest of the global fleet “soon”.