Uber plans self-driving bicycles and electric scooters that can charge themselves

The Uber Jump bikes would be able to cycle themselves to docking stations

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 21 January 2019 16:02 GMT
Jump bikes parked on a street corner on April 12, 2018 in San Francisco, California
Jump bikes parked on a street corner on April 12, 2018 in San Francisco, California

Uber is working on electric bicycles and scooters capable of taking themselves to charging points autonomously after a ride has been completed.

The ride-hailing firm currently employs contractors to collect and charge the bikes and scooters deployed through its Uber Jump business. The two-wheeled vehicles are then manually delivered to areas where rider demand is highest.

This logistical operation could be bypassed with the introduction of self-driving technology, though engineering and regulatory challenges remain before they can be introduced.

It is not the first time the concept of a self-driving bicycle has been floated by a major tech company, with Google creating a spoof video for the technology for April Fool's Day in 2016.

Uber's ambitions appear to be far more realistic, having already begun the search for engineers to develop the technology.

Robotics expert Chris Anderson tweeted about an announcement made at an event he was running, which called for engineers to work on the self-driving project.

The new Micromobility Robotics engineers will work under Uber Jump division of the firm, drawing from the self-driving expertise of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group (ATG).

Uber also posted a Google Form seeking information from people on the lookout for related career opportunities.

"The New Mobilities team at Uber is exploring ways to improve safety, rider experience, and operational efficiency of our shared electric scooters and bicycles through the application of sensing and robotics technologies," Uber's ATG wrote in the note, first spotted by TechCrunch.

Uber Jump bicycles already come with self-diagnostic capabilities and swappable batteries for faster turnaround, and adding self-driving capabilities would further stream-line operations.

The plans come amid a spate of vandalism on bicycle and scooter hire schemes, which has seen bike-sharing startups pulling out of locations across Europe.

Earlier this month, Chinese startup Ofo withdrew its services from London after hundred of its bikes were damaged, while Hong Kong-based Gobee.bike was forced to end operations in France last year following a string of thefts and vandalism of its bikes.

Uber declined to comment on the self-driving bike and scooter plans.

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