Ireland’s first big e-scooter trial launches across DCU campuses

20 Jul 2021

Jinél Fourie, head of central public policy at Tier, at DCU. Image: Julien Behal Photography

The collaboration between Tier, Luna, SmartDCU and Insight begins today and will run until early 2022.

Ireland’s first major e-scooter trial has launched today (20 July) across the five campuses of Dublin City University (DCU).

The project, which was announced in April, is collaboration between Tier, an e-scooter operator; Luna, an Irish micromobility tech company; Insight, Science Foundation Ireland’s research centre for data analytics; and SmartDCU, a division of Dublin City Council’s Smart Dublin initiative.

The trial, which will run until early 2022, will see the roll-out of 30 Tier e-scooters equipped with Luna’s computer vision and AI technology. This tech aims to improve safety for e-scooter users and pedestrians, letting operators know where the vehicles are and how they are being parked and ridden.

The trial partners are calling it “a world-first academic-industry research project” focused on computer vision in e-scooters, but earlier this month Luna also began a commercial pilot of its technology with Voi in the UK.

Researchers hope to gain a wealth of data from the computer vision-equipped scooters to both improve the technology and identify smart city use cases and applications that could be of value to local authorities. This could include alerting cities to blockages on footpaths, such as fallen scooters or illegally parked cars.

“Ireland is truly leading the way in the space of the use of e-scooters and I very much look forward to seeing this pilot get moving across DCU campuses,” said Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton, TD, who spoke at a launch event earlier today.

“This is an interesting and exciting time in transport – the innovation and momentum is palpable here today. I look forward to seeing this pilot progress across campus and I am particularly interested in learning of its outcomes and insights which I am certain will inform us in further progressing legislation in this space.”

Initially, the trial will take place on the individual DCU campuses. However, when legislation allowing for the use of e-scooters on Irish roads is passed, the vehicles may also move between campuses. Tier and DCU researchers hope to establish if people switch from cars to e-scooters, with a view to reducing the university’s carbon footprint.

Andrew Fleury, CEO of Luna, said the company is thrilled to be part of a “significant project that will have future ramifications for shared micromobility” across Ireland and globally.

“Cities and towns everywhere are looking towards smart technology to help find solutions to some of the operational challenges that are holding the scooter industry back from fulfilling its potential.”

Daire Keogh, president of DCU, added: “DCU is delighted to facilitate this project across our campus estate, as we strive in partnership with Tier to reduce our carbon footprint through revolutionising the way our community travels to, from and around the university.

“We are especially pleased that Luna has emerged from our DCU Alpha innovation campus, knowing the support it has received there from DCU staff, as well as peer companies.”

Numerous other e-scooter operators have revealed plans to expand into Ireland when legislation allows, including Dott, Voi, Bolt, Bird, and homegrown companies Zeus and Zipp Mobility.

As the process of regulation at a national level continues, Dublin City Council has been exploring what an e-scooter scheme for the city might look like.

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin