Bird’s new sensor promises to keep e-scooters off sidewalks

The brand takes Lime's existing sidewalk-sojourn-discouraging tech to the next level.

Some time back, the popular e-scooter rental company Lime announced a new software-based detection system that issued a polite alert to not be “that person” whenever users rode on sidewalks. Not to be outdone, rival urban scooter provider Bird is rolling out a sensor-based solution that not only reminds riders to stay off sidewalks... but which actually stops them in their tracks until they comply.

Thanks to a partnership with GPS providers at U-Blox, Bird is introducing what it’s calling “the world’s first end-to-end positioning software providing centimeter-level accuracy” for its e-scooters. Using a new sensor module that combines multiple data streams for precise location mapping, Bird scooters will soon begin issuing an alert via the scooter itself along with the app whenever riders make their way onto city sidewalks. At that point, the throttle will gently, automatically ease up, forcing the scooter to a complete stop until it’s returned to the road.

The new system is currently being piloted in San Diego and Milwaukee with plans to expand into Madrid soon. In the coming months, Bird intends to roll out the service to more cities.

Pelun Chen / Bird

Similar tech already in use for school zones — This isn’t the first pedestrian-minded safety precautions put forth by Bird. Recently, the company announced a very similar system that uses GPS to automatically slow riders down when entering high-foot traffic areas like school zones. Earlier this summer, Bird also released a new in-app test to determine a user’s potential inebriation levels before allowing them to rent one of its scooters.

The rental transport industry picks up speed — Bird’s latest software innovation comes as e-transportation rentals and sales continue to expand their availability throughout the country, and the world.

Given the rise of EVs, e-bikes, e-scooters, electric skateboards, and other electrified transportation solutions that seek to help combat climate change in urban areas (while also reducing congestion), more logistical issues will inevitably crop up. But getting ahead of the curve is a great way to ensure these alternative transport options remain popular in the years to come with regulators and users alike.