January 20th, 2021 by Jo Borrás
From Lime to Divvy and a few others in between, it seems like everyone is trying to solve that “last mile” commuter problem in fun and electrified ways these days. Well, everyone but electric scooter rental company Bird, that is. The company recently announced new “Skid Detection” software that, as the name implies, detects skids and drifts. And, no, they don’t give you bonus points for sick stunts. Instead, they might decide to ban you from future rentals.
Don’t get me wrong, here. I absolutely, 100% understand where Bird is coming from. From their point of view, they’re working to ensure their scooter fleet lives a long life, both reducing material waste and cost overhead while benefiting the maximum number of commuters. They’re also doing their part to limit their own legal liability by coming up with a way to prove, for example, that an injured rider may have been doing something stupid when they got hurt, and that their injuries were not, in fact, caused by a faulty electric scooter.
I get all of it. I’d probably even enact a similar fun ban if I was in Bird’s shoes. If I were a stakeholder in Bird, I would breathe a sigh of deep relief that the company had found a way to shift its liability to its riders. It all makes sense … but it also speaks to a sad state of affairs and rampant fraud and spaghetti-style litigation and other horrible things that make just kind of wish people could have some kind of fun in this world, you know?
And, yes, Lime does use a host of sensors to determine your riding habits — they use accelerometer and speed sensors to guess when you’re riding on a sidewalk vs. in a bike lane, for example — but their software isn’t being used to enforce “safe riding standards.” Not yet, anyway.
What do you guys think? Am I over-reacting here, or does knowing that the electric scooter you’re renting to get you to the office a few minutes sooner is actively tracking your riding habits kind of a turn-off? Scroll on down to the bottom of the page and let us know what you think of Bird’s Skid Detection software in the comments.
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