On Tuesday, 15 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, and Bogota, Colombia, said they have created a nonprofit called the Open Mobility Foundation, devoted to collecting, maintaining, and standardizing information about where shared vehicles, including cars, scooters, jet packs, and bicycles are parked.
The foundation will take control of the Mobility Data Specification, a digital tool created by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. LADOT has used the standard to solicit and organize information about shared scooters: where they’re parked, where they’re traveling, and whether they’re broken or charged. Cities can also use the tool to share information with the companies about any special events in the area that might lead to an increased demand in vehicles.
For now, the tool has been used only to collect and share information on scooters and bicycles. But the cities who now control it believe the data standard could be used to one day regulate shared cars and even autonomous taxis.
At least 50 other global cities, seeking a simple way to keep track of the new and often controversial scooters on their streets, have adopted the Mobility Data Standard too. Many require companies to submit data in that format if they want to operate in the cities. This is something they can do because scooters, unlike ride-hailing companies, are generally regulated on the municipal level.
The cities say the info will help them improve their transportation systems and make them safer and easier to navigate. There are safety challenges that still need to be solved and the hope is that this system can help with all of that.
The data also helps cities regulate the transportation companies, letting officials know whether the vehicles are operating in the proper places. This makes it easier to identify where these vehicles are being used illegally and what needs to be done to stop it. It also helps cities see which neighborhoods are using the scooters more.
Initially, companies were against the data standard. These companies have argued that intensive government data-collection efforts could harm users, because governments may not be able to safeguard the information. Privacy advocates have also objected to the tool.
Now that responsibility for the data standard is in the hands of some of the country’s most important transportation officials, handling sensitive data will be a very important undertaking for the foundation.
Not every private company has been invited to work with the cities on this new foundation. Only Spin, a scooter-share operator owned by Ford, and scooter-share unicorn Bird are “founding members” of the Open Mobility Foundation. City officials who created the foundation did not approach Uber and Lyft, which run bike- and scooter-share businesses and supported local legislation that would restrict what kinds of data cities are allowed to collect.
Moving control of the standard to a foundation doesn’t resolve the messy politics around scooters. But, it could be a large step in the right direction. Only time will tell.
Bird and Spin provides electronic scooters for people to rent to travel short distances instead of hailing an Uber or Lyft. You need to downloaded the app to use the scooters and pay a small unlock fee and then a travel charge. The app shows where the scooters are located and how much of a charge each one has. They can travel up to 15 mph and are a great option to get around congested locations that are not too far apart. The benefit of using the scooters is that you can leave them at the location you arrive at, and you are not required to bring them to a nearby docking station or return them to your initial destination. You can simply leave the scooters wherever you stop and they will be collected at night and redistributed by morning by independent chargers.
There are numerous ways that you can get injured from Bird or Spin scooters, and many times another person can be responsible for your injuries or the scooter or the company is liable. Those who wish to ride the scooters need to pay attention to the rules and regulations that accompany the vehicles. While the scooters themselves have warnings on them, a full list of do’s and don’ts can be found on the app.
- Always wear a helmet when riding.
- Only have 1 person ride a scooter at a time. The scooters are not designed to hold the weight of two people.
- You must have a valid driver’s license to operate a scooter.
- Keep at least one hand on the handlebars and do not carry or hold any belongings, materials, or items that would make it difficult or impossible for you to safely maneuver the scooter.
- Never hitch the scooter or user to another car or any other automobile during operation.
- Use bike lanes and avoid the sidewalk as much as possible.
- Park the scooter in a safe space so that it is not in the way of pedestrian traffic, and do not leave the scooter on its side on the sidewalk or in the street.
- Do not operate the scooter while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.