E-scooter company Neuron trials 1,500 scooters that can detect and correct unsafe riding

Singapore-based Neuron Mobility, an e-scooter-sharing company, is updating its N3 scooters with a new operating system and additional on-board sensors that will help it detect and correct dangerous or inconsiderate riding behavior. The company will be trialing about 1,500 upgraded scooters in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom over the next six months.

Neuron’s new scooters will rely on high-accuracy location technology and rapid geo-fence detection in order to correct or warn users of unsafe behaviors, like aggressive swerving, skidding, curb jumping, tandem riding and sidewalk riding. The new sensors and IoT layer allow the scooter to speak to the rider in many different languages and guide them toward correcting their own behavior, or it might give riders a safety evaluation after a ride and send educational materials on how to ride safely via email. In extreme circumstances, the scooter will be able to simply slow riders to a stop, combined with an audio message like: “You are leaving the service area, head back or power will be cut off.”

In the long-term, all riders will get an individual safety rating, which Neuron hopes will incentivize good behavior, target certain riders for safety training and ban repeat offenders.

“But what is the actual impact of this technology layer in a real-world setting, in the hands of real users?” Zachary Wang, CEO of Neuron, told TechCrunch. “That is the key focus of the trial. We want to study across thousands of scooters and different geographical areas, working with different city councils to really understand where do we want to draw the line? How should we implement this technology in a way that best suits the needs of cities?”

Neuron is the latest e-scooter operator to implement this type of rider assistance system. Bird recently launched its new location-based sidewalk riding detection technology in hundreds of scooters in Milwaukee and San Diego. Over the summer, Superpedestrian acquired Navmatic so it could implement the company’s high-accuracy positioning software in order to detect dangerous riding behavior and stop it in real time.

Companies like Spin, Voi and Helbiz are also trialing scooter advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), but their systems use cameras attached to the vehicles, along with other sensors, to come to similar conclusions about a rider’s behavior or parking.

While Neuron is, admittedly, a little late to the party, it is probably the only company publicly introducing this kind of tech that has developed it purely in-house. Bird’s location accuracy is made possible through a partnership with u-blox, a Swiss company that produces wireless semiconductors and high-precision positioning modules; Spin and Helbiz are working with Drover AI, and Voi with Luna, on their respective computer vision modules.

For accurate location tracking, Neuron is implementing a multi-constellation, multi-band global navigation satellite system (GNSS), which uses radio from satellites to provide highly precise geo-spatial positioning. New accelerometers and six-axis gyroscope sensors help detect how fast the vehicle is traveling, what the acceleration is like, what angles the vehicle is turning on and whether or not it’s going up or down a slope — all of which help the vehicle determine if the rider is driving aggressively, as well as work in tandem with the positioning software to get an even more accurate location.

The rapid geo-fence detection takes in all of this data and processes it locally and quickly using edge computing, rather than cloud computing, which Neuron says results in 10 centimeter-level accuracy.

“We’ve been working over the past 12 months to bundle all this technology together, because to make one work, we need a lot of additional sensors, and we need to be able to know the position before we can process the information locally,” said Wang.

While all of Neuron’s new technological capabilities are present at the same time on each scooter, not all features will be tested simultaneously. For example, in cities like Ottawa, e-scooters are only allowed to ride on the road or bike paths, so it’s the sidewalk detection technology that will be featured heavily there. Meanwhile in Australia, riders must ride on the sidewalk, so Neuron will trial its high-accuracy location technology as it relates to designated parking locations, according to the company.

Neuron is currently present in 23 markets throughout Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and Korea. The trial will be taking place in Ottawa in Canada, Brisbane and Darwin in Australia, and Slough in the United Kingdom.