WORLD FIRST: Computer-vision e-scooters to use AI to map roads and monitor traffic interactions

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A new AI-powered e-scooter research pilot project is to launch in Dublin City University (DCU), in parallel with moves to make scooters street legal across Ireland. The shared scooter pilot scheme, which will operate on DCU campuses (and between campuses once legislation allows), aims to set the bar for e-scooter safety standards in Ireland and worldwide.

As part of the project, e-scooter operator Tier and micromobility tech platform Luna will provide a fleet of 30 computer vision-enabled scooters, allowing DCU-based Insight researchers to explore a rich new source of smart city data.

Equipped with the Luna technology, the Tier scooters will be immediately capable of running pedestrian detection and lane segmentation algorithms, allowing the vehicles to understand how many people are in their path, as well as whether they are on the road, a cycle lane, or footpath.

As well as being a world first academic-industry research project focused on computer vision in scooters, the pilot will also be Ireland’s first major structured e-scooter trial. The purpose of the research project is to simultaneously improve e-scooter safety and to explore the Smart City possibilities associated with computer vision equipped micromobility vehicles.

The vision data generated by the fleet will be analysed by DCU-based Insight researchers, with a view to identifying smart city use cases and applications of value to local authorities, in line with the mission of Smart Dublin. It is envisaged that some of the use cases that could be prototyped during the pilot, include traffic congestion alerts, road condition monitoring, street infrastructure mapping, kerbside management applications, as well as heat mapping of footpath riding incidents as an indicator of problematic junctions or inadequate cycling infrastructure.

Ronan Furlong and Andrew Fleury (right) of Luna

Separately Tier and DCU will monitor the modal shift pattern from cars to scooters across DCU users, with a focus on reducing the University’s transport-related emissions. TIER will also explore the impact of its ‘Energy Network’ innovation in terms of driving footfall to local retail outlets as part of cities post-Covid economic recovery. TIER’s unique model allows users to swap depleted e-scooter batteries – in return for free travel – at charging stations hosted in local retail outlets. Pilot data from the Energy Network in Finland reveals the average convenience store enjoys an average of €18,000 additional income as a result of TIER users entering to switch batteries.

As part of the pilot project, the collaborative research team will also look at other insights particularly around user behaviours and attitudes, which can feed into any commercial shared e-scooter schemes that may be launched in Dublin and elsewhere across Ireland in the future.

“This research project will help shape the future regarding the safety and municipal value of electric scooters, not just in Dublin and Ireland, but globally,” says Andrew Fleury, co-founder and CEO of Luna “The project will also enable the further development of Dublin as a ‘smart city’ and strengthen Luna’s position as a key technology provider in the governance and control of shared electric scooter schemes into the future.”

“This research is a great example of the calibre of groundbreaking innovations that are happening across DCU,” says Dr Declan Raftery, COO Dublin City University. “Luna was founded in our Alpha Innovation Campus and we’re delighted to pilot the technology across our campuses. We are genuinely curious to understand how e-scooters can help drive modal shift across our community of 18,000 students and almost 2,000 staff, and we want to work with Dublin and Ireland stakeholders to disseminate all useful learnings from the pilot, as we prepare for a return to campus and a wider return to work in a post-Covid world.”

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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).