Uber is planning to extend autonomous technology into two-wheeled services as the ride-hailing giant look towards resuming its self-driving car program as soon as possible. Concrete information on this matter is scarce, but Uber has announced this move at a DIY Robotics event which took place over the weekend, according to TechCrunch, citing 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson. The division responsible for developing autonomous bike and scooters will live inside JUMP group of Uber, already in charge of Uber’s bike and scooters-sharing program, the report said.
Micromobility Robotics – the new Uber’s division – will explore the potentials of developing autonomous scooters and bikes that can self-drive themselves to charging points or drive themselves to locations where they are needed by riders. According Telegraph, Uber has since begun hiring engineers to develop the self-driving bikes and scooters.
The team at Uber’s new division – Mobilities is “exploring ways to improve rider experience, safety, and operational efficiency of shared electric bicycles and scooters through sensing and machine learning technologies,” Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group disclosed in a Google Form seeking the opinion of people interesting in career opportunities.
In a move to improve JUMP’s overall unit economics by updating its bike, Uber in December unveiled its latest JUMP bikes, with swappable batteries and self-diagnostic capabilities.
Nick Foley, JUMP’s Head of Product told TechCrunch last month that the next generation bikes improved the “system utilization, operating system, fleet uptime and all of the most critical metrics” necessary in the performance of businesses running a shared fleet. “Swappable batteries mean you don’t have to take vehicles back to wherever you charge a bike or scooter, and that’s good for the business.”
Autonomous bikes and scooters will boost Uber’s competition strength
Uber’s shared Micromobility business will require less of human effort to charge the vehicles if the autonomous bikes and scooters are developed. It also implies that Uber would be able to quickly re-deploy its bikes and scooters as they return to the charging points by simply swapping the batteries. That’s a massive boost to the services’ efficiency granting Uber a well-oiled machine that will improve vehicle availability while improving rider experience in general. Self-parking bikes and scooters will also eliminate complains of improper parking of the vehicles.
However, considering that Uber is only hiring engineers and building the team, the scenario we have imagined will take a while before manifesting. Whatever Uber is planning will take some time. While Uber is currently facing fierce competition from Lyft, Lime and other companies offering bike and scooter-sharing program, autonomous bikes and scooters will help the tech giant to stand out. Aside from improving the service, self-driving bikes will save Uber money in the long run. The company would no longer require services from a number of ‘juicers’ (scooter rechargers) to keep the service available.