Seattle’s scooter share fleet is growing.
Spin, the micromobility company backed by Ford Motor Co., is set to receive a permit from the Seattle Department of Transportation and join three other providers on the streets of Seattle. LINK, Lime and Wheels started deploying their devices last fall as part of the city’s Scooter Share Program to encourage healthier, greener modes of transportation.
Spin already had electric scooters zipping around the White Center area as part of a pilot program run by King County. The company now plans to launch in West Seattle to help with transportation needs as the West Seattle Bridge is closed, and it will eventually grow to 1,000 scooters across the rest of Seattle.
When launched, SDOT’s program built in the flexibility to adjust to future tech innovations from scooter companies and intentionally held back on issuing a fourth scooter share permit. The department announced in April that it would seek new applicants, and Spin met the demand for improved design and beat out other applicants with its Insight Level 2 scooter.
The scooter features “sidewalk detection technology” from Drover which is intended to encourage better riding and parking habits. The system relies on on-board sensors, artificial intelligence and computer vision to detect when riders are on the sidewalk instead of the street or a bike lane. The scooters will make an audible sound to tell riders to correct their actions. SDOT also said Spin is developing an algorithm to slow down devices on sidewalks and the company will work with SDOT to test the safety feature.
Spin, which previously deployed its orange bike-share models in Seattle, operates in more than 70 cities and college campuses and Seattle is the first major city where the advanced AI is being deployed on an entire scooter fleet.
SDOT says scooters around Seattle have logged more than 600,000 rides since the start of the program. Ridership jumped from about 5,000 trips a week in the fall and winter to more than 30,000 trips per week in June as warm weather set in.
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The three existing companies have been encouraged to make their devices accessible to more people, and several programs offer free rides for people with low incomes and disabilities, and to essential workers. Spin has a program called Spin Access which allows people without smartphones to rent a scooter and offers discounted rides for people with low incomes. It also offers five free 30-minute rides each day for healthcare workers through its Everyday Heroes program.
While Spin’s AI will attempt to encourage better scooter riding and parking habits, SDOT is continuously trying new strategies to keep parked scooters from blocked sidewalks. Several new bike and scooter parking spaces have been painted along Alki Beach in West Seattle.
Scooter and bike share companies will also start using GPS technology that requires riders to park in the designated spots. If someone attempts to park on the sidewalk or sand, the app gives them instructions on where to move the scooter before the user can end their trip.