Electric scooter sharing scheme provider Superpedestrian is weighing up plans to establish a European R&D centre of excellence in the Republic. The company confirmed the move as it unveiled proposals to create up to 100 jobs as part of an initial €15 million investment here.
Superpedestrian, which was spun out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012, is one of more than 20 companies hoping to run shared e-scooter schemes in Ireland once legislation is passed, as is expected shortly.
The company only began operating in Europe last September but it expects to have more services running on the continent than in the US by the end of the year. The company is currently providing schemes in more than 30 cities across the US, Italy, Spain, Austria and Sweden, with services starting in Portugal next week.
Speaking to The Irish Times, director of policy Jean Andrews said Superpedestrian has had talks with IDA Ireland about establishing a presence in the country. The company is interested in potentially setting up operations outside of Dublin, she said.
“We do a lot of our research, development and engineering in Massachusetts and we are looking at mirroring the R&D aspect of that in Ireland,” said Ms Andrews. “We’re looking at the whole kit and caboodle of working on both hardware and software here.”
“We’re excited about the conversations we’ve had with the IDA about the opportunities here,” she added.
‘Volvo of e-scooters’
Superpedestrian, which has invested $75 million (€61 million) in R&D over the last two years, seeks to differentiate itself from other e-scooter service providers through its focus on safety.
Referring to the company as the “Volvo of e-scooters,” Ms Andrews stressed that Superpedestrian has more than 35 patents in artificial intelligence (AI), electrified technologies and active safety features. Its core technology is VIS (vehicle intelligent safety system), a network of sensors, microprocessors and AI included on its scooters that constantly run health checks and can automatically adjust performance to avoid component failure.
Superpedestrian’s e-scooters can travel up to 98km on a single battery charge, which, it says, is three times the industry average, meaning it can leave them out in the field without the need of servicing for longer. Ms Andrews said as a result of this, it can provide scooters in towns where it might not be economical for other providers to do so.
The company is looking at rolling out 10,000 e- scooters on Irish roads. Most of these will be for use in the cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, with 3,000 for the capital. However, Superpedestrian is also intending to look at having services in at least 22 towns as well. This includes providing 260 scooters for hire in Waterford city, 200 each for Drogheda and Dundalk, 150 for Navan, 125 for Ennis and 100 each for Naas and Newbridge.
The company said it will employ between 60 to 100 people and invest €15 million in its first year of operation in the Republic.
“We think we have the smartest, safest vehicle available and we’d love to see it on Irish roads soon,” said Ms Andrews.