Spin wants to bring its AI scooter tech to DC - Technical.ly DC

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Spin wants to bring its AI scooter tech to DC

The San Francisco-based dockless escooter and bike-sharing company demoed its new sidewalk detection technology this week as it seeks approval for use. Called Spin Insight Level 2, the tech uses AI to monitor scooter rides.

A pair of scooters from Spin.

Scooter and bikeshare company Spin has a new plan for escooter safety (cue the wind-blown hair and riding off into the sunset montage).

In collaboration with Drover, the San Francisco-based company hopes to bring its new sidewalk detection technology to the District. It demoed the new technology for city officials this week. Called Spin Insight Level 2, it works by using a camera mounted at the front of scooters and machine learning technology to make sure people are riding correctly and obeying traffic laws.

Dan Winston, regional general manager of Spin, said that the new technology can help not only for riders, but also senior citizens and those in the accessibility community who may encounter the scooters on the streets.

“Basically the whole idea is: how do we encourage users to use the scooters in ways that aren’t going to impact other people in the community?” Winston told Technical.ly. “And, also, actually provide the benefit of if people are riding on the sidewalk, making sure there’s other kinds of signals so people can know that they’re coming and they can watch out.”

Using a camera at the front of the scooter, the device monitors the surrounding area. It can identify whether or not a rider is on the sidewalk — which they’re not supposed to be — or on a road, bike line or parking area. While a person is riding, built in speakers and notifications offer sounds to alert pedestrians and warning sounds if someone is riding or parking in a place they shouldn’t be. Winston said that since the device uses video technology, it is even able to tell when riders were on a temporary sidewalk due to construction.

Instead of GPS technology, which is usually only accurate within 30 feet, Drover cofounder Alex Nesic told Technical.ly that it uses AI and PathPilot technologies to sense the surroundings and distinguish between different types of infrastructure to see where the scooter is. Even though people tend to travel via scooter for just a few miles, Winston said he hopes this new technology can help incorporate scooters into the overall transportation network.

“Sometimes they’re seen as toys or fun things for leisure activities and they are fun, that’s one of the great things. It’s kind of a joyful experience to to ride them,” Winston said. “…But what I think is transformative about about scooters is their micromobility in general. E-bikes, scooters, the point-to-point services like that, whatever the next technology is going to be, they can be part of the transportation mix.”

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Spin, which launched in DC in 2018 and has a fleet of about 3,000 vehicles in the city and in Northern Virginia, is unsure just when the new program will launch in the city since it still needs to be approved by the District. But it has high hopes that the new technology can help balance local transportation. It has already had a good amount of success in the area, as only one of three scooter companies that got their permits renewed, while four others got the boot in 2019.

But with the approval process still underway, Winston said Spin is also introducing it to many stakeholder groups ahead of an official launch.

“For us, the most important thing is making sure that we are always collaborating and we’re not bringing something that’s unexpected,” Winston said. “We’ve seen that in the transportation industry, where people aren’t aware of new technologies, and we want to make sure that this is launched in the right way.”

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