AI e-scooters will be put to the test in DCU trial

15 Apr 2021

Fred Jones, Tier general manager for northern Europe. Image: Tier

DCU will be a testbed for a fleet of e-scooters equipped with AI and computer vision, with the aim of shaping the future of this emerging mode of transport.

Staff and students at Dublin City University (DCU) will test out a new fleet of e-scooters equipped with AI and computer vision.

It is part of a research project that will be carried out by Smart DCU with micromobility tech company Luna, European e-scooter operator Tier and Insight, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for data analytics.

The fleet will be available for use within and between the different DCU campuses across Dublin. Researchers will study how the AI and computer-vision tech could improve safety for both users and pedestrians.

‘Industry and academia can combine to come up with the solutions that will help enhance the future of safe micromobility’

Irish tech start-up Luna, which recently received backing from former Irish rugby player Brian O’Driscoll, is based at DCU’s Alpha innovation campus. It has developed a platform that uses precise positioning and computer vision to let operators know where e-scooters are and how they are being parked and ridden. It can tell how many people are in the scooter’s path, for example, and whether it’s travelling on a road or cycling lane.

The start-up has already partnered with e-scooter companies including Irish player Zipp Mobility and Sweden’s Voi.

In the DCU pilot project, researchers will gather vision data from users’ trips with the scooters and use it to develop smart city use cases and applications for Luna’s AI models and algorithms.

The study will also investigate how e-scooters might replace other types of transport across the DCU community. A total of 30 scooters will be accessible to all 18,000 students and 2,000 faculty members at DCU during the six-month test period.

The future of e-scooters

“This research project will help shape the future regarding the safety and municipal value of electric scooters, not just in Dublin and Ireland, but globally,” said Andrew Fleury, co-founder and CEO at Luna. “The project will also enable the further development of Dublin as a smart city.”

Potential areas that could be tested in the pilot include traffic congestion alerts, road condition monitoring and heat mapping of footpath riding accidents. The research team will also look at user behaviours and attitudes, which could feed into any commercial shared e-scooter schemes that may be launched in Dublin and across Ireland in the future.

“The confluence of e-mobility, smart cities, computer vision, AI and data analytics is a key area of interest to Insight researchers in DCU,” said Prof Noel O’Connor, CEO of Insight.

“Industry and academia can combine to come up with the solutions that will help enhance the future of safe micromobility. This in turn will drive its adoption globally, supporting societies shared climate goals.”

Dr Declan Raftery, COO of DCU, added that the research is “a great example of the calibre of groundbreaking innovations” happening at the university and would provide useful learnings as it prepares “for a return to campus and a wider return to work in a post-Covid world”.

The roll-out of e-scooters has been widely anticipated in Ireland for some time. In February of this year, the Government approved plans to draft legislation around their regulation on Irish roads.

Ahead of this expected legislative change, a number of companies have already announced plans to launch fleets here, including Bolt, Dott, Bleeper, Zipp, Free Now and Bird.

In the DCU trial, e-scooter use within individual campuses will kick off immediately, but using the scooters between campuses and potentially in other private sites around Dublin will have to wait until that legislation comes through.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021