Where is the parking spot? About indiscriminate parking.
Every reader here already knows the main problem that cities want to address when dockless shared-mobility operators are coming in its streets. Angry drivers lost in a sea of scooters and bicycles, yes, but most of all: indiscriminate parking! The trend is clearly going towards securising and organising the parked vehicles. It has been emphasized when DOT Chicago launched its dockless mobility pilot last year, with the requirement of a “lock-to” mechanism.
It is therefore a major driving force in both hardware and software developments for solution suppliers and operators at the moment to stay in the game, along with the huge impact it has on a project OPEX, by reducing theft, vandalism, and now penalties for removals by public services.
Hardware evolution on vehicles…
Different E-kickscooter companies have unveiled lock-to solutions prototypes in the end of 2018. Skip developed a retractable cable that fits in the T-bar, while Scoot displayed an additionnal box attached to the T-bar. For both solutions, no informations about how the securisation will be controlled: is the lock state monitored online? Do you have to send a photo of the scooter at the end of the ride to validate the appropriate use of the lock?
Jump Bikes, which can be considered as one of the pioneers of “controlled free-floating” also chose to modernise its historic U-lock that will be replaced by a new flexible version (among other innovations from the deep lifting of the Jump Bike).
…And process adjustments
Meanwhile in Singapore (that we are following closely for months)… the experiments are still going on. To keep its streets as tidy as its reputation, LTA is now applying a rule that has been announced in late 2018: using QR code scanning to prove good parking location. The city already designed prefered parking zones for shared bicycles, that will all featured a unique QR code. Operators have to implement the QR code scanning into their app’s process so the rider can validate the end of its and prove that he parked at an authorized location. If you have tried the process in SG already, I’ll be curious to have your feedback about the renting process duration with this additional step. I would also be curious to learn from the operators what means are dedicated to checking the photos, either human or technological.
Are humans still useful?
If you do not have the tech, you can have the staff. In Paris, Lime hired 10 workers, who are riding in pairs in the streets to re-locate E-scooters and lift them standing. One might really wonder if it is not only a marketing happening, as social networks and locals are still looking for a witness to their existence
Paris: des patrouilleurs pour déplacer les trottinettes mal garées pic.twitter.com/DzBWMXBtvP
— BFM Paris (@BFMParis) 2 janvier 2019
Anyway, all these actions are proving the need for organised streets, thus organised fleets. Lock-to mechanism are a part of the solution, but I think that they have to come with users education and/or incentive to good parking behaviour. Geofencing is still in its early stage (as the choice of SG to stay with QR code technology highlights), and its popularisation will help developing new gamification solution or incentive fees. Once again, the reality of a perfect product in between dock-based and dockless is getting real…
PS: does anyone knows about a country/city where the problem of indiscriminate parking doesn’t exist? As it is strongely related to culture, I imagine that some are very tidy and respectful aven when it is about scooters or bikes 😉