Popular with tourists and residents, electric scooter startups and their e-scooters have flooded major cities over the past few years. As 2018 ended, more than 85,000 e-scooters were available for public use across 100 U.S. cities. The low-cost rentals cut emissions and parking, ride sharing, or car hire costs. But problems – congestion, injuries, and accidents, to name a few – have plagued the runaway success of these shared urban mobility devices.
Boosting micromobility benefits, while minimizing its hazards, is critical for every city hosting rentable shared vehicles. BlueGranite recently aided a major metropolis, known for its universities and the arts, in doing just that; by helping this smart city harness scooter mobility data, we’ve empowered it to rein in problems, enforce new regulations, and maximize the overall perks of the shared devices.
Riding a scooter is simple. Users download an app to their mobile device. It provides the location of the nearest available scooter. A small fee, typically around $1, unlocks the device, and riders pay about 15 cents a minute for use. A monthly pass runs about $25.
But the associated overcrowded streets and cluttered sidewalks, lack of designated device lanes, uneven device distribution, and uncapped startup growth all created issues. While this metropolis quickly put electric scooter regulations in place, it also needed a way to enforce them.
The municipality required startups to share streaming data for each scooter, with rule compliance and enforcement as its end goal; key was ensuring operators observe fleet caps and equitably distribute devices, and users observe parking and riding rules. BlueGranite’s job was to corral and make sense of the huge amounts of incoming device data – to amplify the benefits for tourists and residents, and drill into the biggest safety risk factors.
As a Microsoft partner, we employed our technology expertise to land near real-time trip info – latitude, longitude, beginning, end, and route taken – into a cloud-based, scalable Azure Data Lake, capable of holding virtually limitless data. Azure Data Factory stages and loads that information into a secure, flexible Azure SQL Database, laying the foundation for visually rich, interactive Power BI reporting.
We also worked closely with municipal staff, teaching and equipping junior IT staff in the effective utilization of cloud-based data storage and transformation. In the end the city was better equipped to uncover their own unique insights from data that they now understood and could easily manage.
Designed to create equity in operator opportunity and prevent e-scooter pile-up, one regulation forbids a device from occupying the same spot for more than 48 hours; municipal monitors can now use Power BI to see how long a scooter has been idle.
BlueGranite-designed reporting also can show areas of greatest use to inform future placement of racks to organize and charge scooters; show days and times of greatest scooter congestion; and surface which operators have too many vehicles in one area.
Besides furthering micromobility vehicle safety and equity, the possibilities of smart cities using data – from bikes, cars, buses, ride-sharing networks, and delivery companies – for civil engineering to enrich urban life, are seemingly endless. Informing infrastructure upgrades, advancing sustainability, cutting emissions, and fostering transportation equity are among the many prospects.