Academics at Cal Poly develop system to disable e-scooters if they are ridden on a sidewalk

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The Cal Poly (California Polytechnic) Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub), powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), has developed a proof-of-concept for potential technologies to address e-scooter issues with sidewalk riding.

Comprised of student employees and staff, the DxHub designed and demonstrated a working model using technology that can detect whether the e-scooter is being used on asphalt (a street) versus concrete (a sidewalk). When the e-scooter is being ridden on concrete, the power to the device is shut down.

The team developed the breakthrough technology using readily available electronic parts that cost under a dollar and demonstrated that e-scooters could be inexpensively and easily modified to enhance safety. The solution will also help reduce e-scooter related injuries for riders and pedestrians, while encouraging individuals to operate these devices on public roadways instead of sidewalks.

When shared micro-mobility devices like e-scooters are ridden on sidewalks instead of the street, injuries to pedestrians demonstrably increase. The City of Santa Monica saw that despite a widespread public education programme and law enforcement officers issuing tickets for violations, e-scooters were still being used on walkways.

In the next phase of its shared mobility pilot program, the City of Santa Monica plans to give preference to e-scooter vendors that incorporate similar technologies.

“The City of Santa Monica was one of the first in the world to enforce digital policy tools to help remedy safety, parking, and over-saturation problems with electric scooters and bikes,” says Kyle Kozar, senior transportation planner at the City Santa Monica. “While we have taken a strong role in public awareness and code enforcement, we needed a solution that could protect residents and riders alike. This prototype, developed in collaboration with the DxHub, proves that a solution could be implemented to address a very real need.”

As the demand increases for micro-mobility across the world, especially as communities reopen amid the Covid-19 pandemic, governments will need to continue to evaluate safety plans for sidewalks and pedestrian pathways. More people are venturing out and returning to activities of daily life, as the popularity of e-scooters continues to rise. E-scooters present an alternative to public transportation, and some governments are moving quickly to provide this option.

“We couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to introduce this new safety technology,” says Darren Kraker, cloud solutions development manager at the DxHub. “For the foreseeable future, we will need to continue to practice physical distancing, and e-scooters can offer that while providing reliable transportation.”

The DxHub team develops open source solutions that benefit other organisations experiencing similar challenges, which are available here: dxhub.calpoly.edu/challenges

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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