SINGAPORE: Ahead of Monday’s (Feb 11) deadline for shared mobility device operators to apply for a licence to operate in public areas in Singapore, 10 prospective operators have confirmed with Channel NewsAsia their intention to enter the market.
They are Beam, GrabWheels, Helbiz, JustScoot by Anywheel, Lime, Neuron, Omni Sharing, QIQ, ScootBee, and Telepod.
INNOVATION ON MOBILITY DEVICES
While all the players have decked their devices out with tracking, data transmission and geo-fencing capabilities, a few companies have gone the extra mile with their devices.
Omni Sharing is the only applicant that has installed seats on its devices – a move that the company believes will help less mobile people (such as the elderly) feel safer and more confident while riding.
“This scooter is safer. It provides a better, more comfortable ride,” said Omni’s Chief Corporate Officer Carlos Abarca. “When you kind of lose control, you can put your feet on the ground, kind of make it like an emergency brake. If you try to do that on a kick-scooter, you probably will fall or cause an accident."
The company’s Costa Rican founder Oscar Moises Chaves was also reported to have bought a majority stake in troubled bicycle-sharing company oBike. oBike exited Singapore last June, leaving its thousands of users with unreturned deposits.
Meanwhile, start-up ScootBee has come up with a device that can return on its own to the nearest parking spot, regardless of where users leave it. Channel NewsAsia had previously been shown how the device works.
Local company QIQ is also turning innovation into reality with its own charging technology.
An ultra-capacitor fully charges a device in just seven minutes, dramatically reducing the downtime for each of its devices.
While it will require a docking system, the company believes users will find this more convenient.
“We know where bus stops are. Bus stops never move away,” said QIQ CEO Justin Sim, using an analogy. “Being a docked system, you will always know that the dock is there. So you know there’s a fleet of vehicles waiting for you. You don’t have to go search for it.”
ONE-STOP SHOP FOR FIRST AND LAST MILE NEEDS
Helbiz is a United States-based company that also has a presence in Italy and Spain. It also operates a peer-to-peer car sharing service in Hong Kong that allows car owners to rent their vehicles to other users.
In the long run, it hopes to be a one-stop shop for all of Southeast Asia’s micro-mobility journeys – which it defines as trips shorter than eight kilometres.
“The long-term idea is … to become the primary mode of transportation for the users of our platform. So for Southeast Asians, it’s (the) one place to go, to use scooters, to use bicycles, to use peer-to-peer car rental,” said Stefano Ciravegna, Chief Strategy Officer of Helbiz. “We also have pilot projects that we're developing, it’s taxi drones – which is not something that will happen immediately, but definitely in the long term.”
In the meantime, veteran operators Telepod and Neuron – who were among the first shared e-scooter players in Singapore when they launched in 2017 – are rolling out updated models of their devices.
Neuron said its new scooter has a parking indicator integrated on the handlebar display to guide users to designated scooter parking zones. It also offers commuters a smoother and safer ride through a stronger standing deck.
Telepod said that its device is a more stable ride, with stronger material, better suspension and shorter braking distance. It has also upgraded its communications technology to an Internet-of-things compatible network called Cat-M1. It also extends battery life.
PROMOTING SAFER RIDES
Other operators are getting involved in efforts to promote a safe riding culture. US-based Lime and Singapore start-up Beam have loaned their e-scooters to Asian Detours, an official facilitator of the Land Transport Authority’s Safe Riding Programme.
The programme, which is currently fully subsidised by the authority until the end of this year, aims to educate both riders and the public on riding rules and etiquette, and how to share public paths.
Denis Koh, who represents the e-scooter riding community on the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, told Channel NewsAsia he was heartened to see such companies proactively helping to educate users.
“Beyond road safety, we have now evolved to pathway and footpath safety,” said Mr Koh. “Everybody plays a part, one way or another, in adapting with the times.”
In particular, Lime hopes to encourage its users to attend the programme through in-app incentives, such as promo codes and giveaways. It also said it will introduce a rider safety education campaign named Respect the Ride in the second half of this year.
LICENCE TO RIDE
Most of the operators’ plans will only become reality if they are awarded licences to operate in public spaces. The deadline to apply is on Monday.
A licensing regime was introduced for both mobility device and bicycle-sharing services last year in a bid to stem indiscriminate parking and reckless riding.
Of the six bicycle-sharing operators that were awarded full and regulatory sandbox licences in September, only four remain.
While the licensing requirements are similar to those for shared bicycles, potential shared e-scooter operators must also certify their devices under the UL2272 fire safety standard.
The Land Transport Authority said shared mobility device licences will be awarded in the second quarter of this year.