- Uber is working on autonomous software that would allow dockless scooters and bikes to drive themselves to riders and charging stations, TechCrunch reports, citing comments from 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson. Anderson said the announcement about the new Micromobility Robotics team was made at a DIY Robocars event this weekend.
- The Daily Telegraph reports that Uber has already begun hiring for the research team, which would work under Jump, the micromobility firm that Uber acquired last year.
- In a Google Form seeking information from people interested in career opportunities, Uber’s autonomous technology team said it was “exploring ways to improve safety, rider experience, and operational efficiency of our shared electric scooters and bicycles through the application of sensing and robotics technologies.”
Details are still scarce on what the new scooter and bike technology could look like, but autonomous software could revolutionize the rapidly-evolving micromobility market. The e-bikes and scooters currently rely on contractors to collect vehicles at night, charge them and then redistribute them for customers. It’s a costly and labor-intensive process and, as Climatewire points out, collecting scooters in gas-powered cars puts a dent into their carbon footprint benefits.
Giving the vehicles the power to go to a central charging station on their own, or to move themselves toward new riders (say, gathering outside of a major event in a city to pick up exiting visitors) would reduce the need for contractors. It could even help address the networks’ notorious clutter problem by having vehicles move themselves out of sidewalks and crosswalks.
Since its acquisition by Uber last year, Jump has already debuted new features, including new display screens, removable batteries for more convenient charging and cable locks to replace existing U-bar locks. Jump is also installing some self-diagnostic software on its bikes, to reduce repair time and keep malfunctioning vehicles off the streets.
Uber has indicated that it wants to expand beyond its ride-hailing roots and have a part in the entire mobility space. The investments to evolve Jump show the potential for new micromobility offerings backed by Uber's tech and research team.