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Central Coast University's Innovation Hub Comes Up With Creative Answer To E-Scooter Problem


They’ve become am affordable, hot new form of transportation in cities.  But, e-scooters have also become an issue, with users sometime breaking the law and creating dangerous situations by riding them on sidewalks.

An innovation center on the Central Coast which is a collaboration between a university, and Amazon may have come up with a unique solution to the problem.

Paul Jurasin is Director of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s DxHub, which was asked to help.  He says the City of Santa Monica asked for assistance.

The e-scooters can be used on streets and in bike lanes, but riding them on sidewalks is illegal.   They can create a dangerous conflict with pedestrians.  Jurasin says as they looked at the problem, the first thing they discovered was that traditional enforcement efforts to control the scooters weren’t working. 

An MIT student working with DxHub took on the challenge.  Casey Johnson began thinking about technologies.  They first tried to use GPS tracking, but discovered it wasn’t precise enough to tell whether the scooters were being used on streets, or sidewalks.  They were accurate to around 15 feet.

Johnson was active in robotics, and started thinking about computer chips he’d used, and seen.  He found one that was used for other things which could be used to determine if the surface of the ground was rough, like asphalt, or smooth like cement.  And, the chips only cost about 50 cents each.

Jurasin says Johnson then used the chip to not only detect when the scooter was on a sidewalk, but to use the warning to shut down its motor.  It would cut power to the electric motor, providing scooter users with a reason to keep them off the sidewalks.  Retrofitting a scooter would only cost a few dollars.

Santa Monica officials say they are looking at making the technology a part of any franchise agreement with e-scooter companies.

It’s possible government agencies could also use legislation to require the chip technology be installed in e-scooters to keep them off sidewalks.

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