Editor's note: The San Francisco Public Works department seized several dozen Spin shared scooters in 2018. Spin also suspended its pedal-bike service within days of launching in Austin in March 2017. An earlier version of this story misidentified what kind of vehicles were involved in these developments. This story has also been updated to reflect the company's departure from Tortoise three-wheelers.
Multiple owners, conflicts with regulators in several cities — scooter company Spin is riding the ups and downs of micromobility.
But with its March sale by Ford Motor Co. to Germany's Tier Mobility AG, the company is now looking to take a ride into profitability.
Spin plans to reach that goal through several initiatives, CEO Philip Reinckens said during a fireside chat with Automotive News at the Move America conference in Austin, Texas, last week.
It first must contend with a lack of loyalty among most scooter riders. They typically have several scooter apps on their phones, Reinckens said.
"It doesn't matter to most riders if a scooter is orange, green or black," he said.
Riders typically look for the nearest scooter with the longest battery life. That reduces Spin's strategy to having scooters fully charged and in the right place at the right time.
Spin developed proprietary rider-analytics software to help place scooters in strategic locations, Reinckens said. These include bus stops, trains stations, office parks and college campuses. It also partners with hotels to offer guests free or discounted rides.
Spin was also one of the first companies to swap batteries on their scooters instead of bringing the vehicles to a remote location to charge. This saves the company money and ensures scooter batteries are more fully charged, Reinckens said
Spin also worked with Segway and Mountain View, Calif., micromobility product developer Tortoise to create a three-wheel scooter that provides more stability and can be remotely controlled. This allows an off-site operator to steer a scooter using images from onboard cameras and lets Spin remotely relocate scooters to areas with the greatest demand.
“Spin is investing and innovating quickly on form factors, sensors and software to make our vehicles the most compliant devices on city streets,” Lucas Beard, Spin’s vice president, growth and marketing,” told Automotive News. “Tortoise three-wheelers were a part of that journey, but we are now focused more on two-wheel e-bikes and e-scooters that are outfitted with the most advanced sensors to increase safety and compliance,” Beard said.
Backlash from residents and city officials
Such monitoring technology also would help Spin and micromobility companies alleviate concerns of city officials and neighborhood residents that the scooters obstruct sidewalks and cause other dangers.
San Francisco Public Works department seized several dozen Spin shared scooters in 2018 following complaints about blocked sidewalks.
Spin also suspended its pedal-bike service within days of launching in Austin in March 2017 because of a dispute with the city over permits and regulations. Later, Austin licensed Spin to operate up to 1,000 scooters in the city.
After an early period of resistance, cities are now embracing micromobility and even making special accommodations for scooters, said Roger Lanctot, Strategy Analytics' director of automotive connected mobility. This includes expanding dedicated riding lanes and more clearly defining regulations, he said.
"This has set the stage for larger and wider deployments," Lanctot said.
Spin also is working closely with partners in cities and at universities to increase safety, Reinckens said.
Along with competitors such as Bird andLime, Spin has invested in technology to detect illegal sidewalk riding and abide by local scooter parking laws.
In March, Berlin-based Tier acquired Fantasmo of Los Angeles to incorporate computer-vision technology that can detect traffic violations, risky riding and illegal scooter parking. Spin is working with Drover AI, also of Los Angeles, to leverage its computer-vision technology to determine whether a scooter is ridden or parked in appropriate areas.