Voi and Luna team up on new vision for e-scooters

8 Jul 2021

A Voi scooter equipped with Luna’s computer vision technology. Image: Voi

A pilot programme in Northampton will explore the use of computer vision to keep pedestrians safe and scooters off pavements.

Swedish e-scooter operator Voi Technology is conducting a large-scale computer vision trial in Northampton, using technology from Irish start-up Luna Systems.

The pilot programme aims to develop e-scooters which can detect when they’re being ridden on pedestrian pathways instead of roads, or when they’ve been parked in an inappropriate place. On-board ‘smart cameras’ developed jointly by Luna and Voi track the environment in which the scooter is being operated, and compare this with an algorithm trained with footage of the streets of Northampton.

According to Voi, if a scooter detects that it’s being used on a pathway, it will sound an alarm and potentially, pending the results of the pilot programme, even automatically slow down. These e-scooters will also guide users to park in designated ‘virtual racks’, so they’re not left to block pathways or bike racks.

The first phase of the trial will begin this month using a controlled user group in Northampton, where Voi has an exclusive licence to operate e-scooters. During the second phase, approximately 100 cameras will be installed on e-scooters from the existing public fleet in the city. Some preliminary testing took place in Stockholm in advance of the Northampton trial.

Voi does not currently operate in Ireland due to regulatory barriers, but has expressed a desire to do so when the law allows. In February, the Government approved a plan to draft legislation that would permit the use of e-scooters on Irish roads.

Commenting on the announcement of the pilot, Voi CEO Fredrik Hjelm said: “This world-first pilot will set new standards of safety for this new form of transport. Having helped riders to take more than 60m rides across Europe we understand deeply the issues involved in e-scooter safety and are always looking for ways to do better.

“We are very proud to be the first e-scooter operator to incorporate the computer vision technology at scale for the benefit of our riders, pedestrians and authorities and as we hope to expand our award-winning fleet into Ireland are delighted to be collaborating with the team in Luna on this important pilot.”

Voi also said that data from the trial would be shared with Northampton Borough Council to improve understanding of where and when e-scooters are being used as transport in the city.

Andrew Fleury, CEO of Luna Systems, said: “With this trial, we look forward to demonstrating how computer vision-equipped e-scooters can make a verifiable difference to rider compliance and sidewalk riding behaviour in cities.

“We’ve noticed cities across the world requesting technological solutions to challenges like pavement riding and it’s fantastic to be working with such a safety conscious operator like Voi, in order to develop market-ready solutions.”

Luna is also working with Zipp Mobility, an Irish e-scooter start-up, and has received funding from Brian O’Driscoll. In April, it was announced that Luna would take part in another computer vision e-scooter trial with Dublin City University, scooter operator Tier, and Science Foundation Ireland’s Insight research centre.

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin