Uber is working on its own scooter to compete with Lime, Bird, Scoot and others, according to Bloomberg. The project is being overseen by Jump, a bike-sharing firm that Uber acquired in April for a reported $200 million. Little is known about the hardware, however, and how it might differentiate from existing push and electric scooters. The only tidbit, for now, is the location of Uber and Jump's engineers: San Francisco. Both companies are yet to confirm the story. In an interview with Bloomberg, though, Nick Foley, Jump's head of product, discussed the need for stronger scooters and hidden brake cables. Make of that what you will.
While the scooter is developed, Uber needs to work on courting city officials. Yesterday, San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency awarded scooter permits to two companies, Skip and Scoot. Bird, Lime and Spin, the first companies to drop a fleet of scooters in the city, were denied alongside Uber and Lyft. San Monica, however, has given Bird, Lime, Lyft and Jump a 16-month permit for a pilot program starting on September 17th. Through Jump, then, Uber has at least one market to test its own hardware in. The expansion could affect Uber's partnership with Lime, which allows users to rent green scooters through its ride-hailing app.
Electric scooter rentals have been hugely controversial. They're cheap to rent, reduce traditional traffic and help people complete "last mile" journeys. The dockless system, though, means they're regularly discarded on the sidewalk, blocking doorways and causing unnecessary congestion for pedestrians. Like dockless bikes, they're also easily damaged and a prime target for thieves who want a free ride or to sell them for quick cash. These issues are the reason why San Francisco and Santa Monica have introduced purpose-built regulation. Scooters may have a place in our cities, but they need to be implemented in a fair and thoughtful way.