|Riderless scooters hit the streets of Atlanta suburb|
In Peachtree Corners, Ga., residents may see an e-scooter zooming down a street – with no rider in sight.
Electric scooter company Go X and Tortoise, a startup specializing in "remote repositioning" technology, have rolled out teleoperated scooters in the northeast Atlanta suburb. They are making them available to the public in a six-month pilot project at the Curiosity Lab, an autonomous-vehicle test track and innovation center in a 500-acre technology park.
The "living lab" announced the partnership on May 20, calling this the first time teleoperated scooters have been deployed on public roads.
A Tortoise team in Mexico City remotely controls the scooters while watching a live feed from cameras mounted on the vehicles.
To take a ride, the customer uses an app to summon a Go X Apollo scooter. A remote operator sends the vehicle to the customer's location. The rider assumes manual control. Once the journey ends, a remote operator sends the scooter back to a central base for parking, charging and cleaning.
"Every time the scooters take a ride, the [remote] driver is learning and the scooter's collecting data, so that in the future the whole experience will be better," Betsy Plattenburg, executive director of Curiosity Lab, told Automotive News.
She said that the e-scooters have been met with "a lot of excitement" from riders. "It helps people really imagine the future," she said.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused some problems, Plattenburg said. Many potential riders are choosing to stay inside rather than hop on a scooter.
"I don't think they're getting as much use as they might have had we launched in January or February," she said.
Go X has implemented safety measures in response to the pandemic. These include daily coronavirus checks for employees and disinfection of the vehicles after every use. After someone gets off an e-scooter, a member of the team in Mexico City directs it back to a sanitation station, where a trained worker will clean it. E-scooters that have been disinfected are marked with a sticker.
Despite the hurdles that the coronavirus pandemic has created, enthusiasm for the e-scooters hasn't died down, Plattenburg said, adding the sanitation process was "not something that any of us really would've considered in January" when the scooters were first tested. In June, she said, it's a necessity.
She said more mobility solutions are in store for the Curiosity Lab.
"We're excited about Tortoise and Go X, we're excited about some of the other things we have in our pipeline," she said. "It'll be a really interesting, crazy year."
-- Krystal Hur