Unprecedented trials in Dublin University campuses will allow scooters to have computational vision capable of alerting the driver of traffic jams, avoid rundown roads or trace routes that are inadequate for micro-mobility.
During the next six months, 18 thousand students and 2 thousand employees of the Dublin City University, in the Irish capital, will be test subjects of an unprecedented pilot-trial. To leave the car parked at home is the first step to participate in this trial that aims to put the entire academic community moving with electric scooters on the five university campuses located in the north of the city. Although these scooters are special. They will use artificial intelligence to gather and analyse data, allowing us to understand the safety risks for users and where the main weaknesses of these transportation means are.
The shared electric scooters fleets appeared in the last few years in practically every city in the world, adding a new dimension to the urban mobility options. But the popularity was accompanied by accidents, putting this means of transportation, until then used for recreational purposes only, under the spotlight of a major number of municipalities, such as Dublin, where only now authorities prepared a legislative pack to authorize its circulation throughout the city.
Caution has been the dominant concept in the urban policies, mainly after several studies alerting to the dangers that these vehicles can represent to users and pedestrians. The most recent research, published at the end of last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the US, demonstrated, for example, that scooter drivers suffer twice more injuries for Km than cyclists and also have twice more probability of getting hurt due to the bad conditions of the roads or crashing into poles or road signs.
Concussions, back injuries, scalding in arms and legs or dental damages are, on the other hand, some of the most frequent trauma, that result from accidents with electric scooters, listed in another study conducted in January this year by the local public health authority of Canada. The goal of the trials now starting at Dublin City University are precisely to find ways to minimize risks, being this the first major project combining industry and academic research in order to use artificial intelligence in micro-mobility.
The goal goes through equipping a fleet of 30 scooters with computational vision, creating data that will then be applied in new apps and technologies that can be integrated in smart cities. The tests involve collaboration between the European operator Tier Mobility, the Irish micro-mobility start-up Luna, the Irish research centre Insight SFI and finally, the Dublin City University with its platform of technological partners.
Algorithms on the road
Equipped with Luna technology, the Tier electrical scooters will be capable of using algorithms in order to stop pedestrians, distinguish sidewalks from roads, allowing vehicles to understand how many people are in its way, as well as if they are in road lanes, bicycle lanes or pedestrian areas. The functionality that researchers aim to gather from this trial include alerts about traffic jams in specified routes, monitoring road conditions, mapping urban infrastructures or apps for the management of pedestrian circuits.
Between the several goals of this project, the most ambitious one is to create a thermic tracking of incidents occurred in sidewalks, which will indicate the crossroads and routes that are more problematic for the circulation of scooters or the inadequacy of infrastructure for micro-mobility. The trials will also allow to develop a platform with a high precision positioning and computational vision, allowing operators to know where the scooters are and how they are being driven and parked. As part of the pilot-project, the research team will also analyse other factors around user behaviours and attitudes, not only to prevent accidents but also in order to understand what type of commercial strategies are more appropriate for shared scooters operators.
To substitute the use of car for the electric scooter in the campuses of the Dublin City University is what these pilot-tests aim to achieve. But the extent of these trials, ongoing until November this year, could be much more far reached. At least, that is what the promoters believe. “This research project will help to mould the future in terms of safety and the municipal value of electric scooters, not only in Dublin and Ireland, but at a global level” explained to “The Irish Times” Andrew Fleury, co-founder and CEO of LUNA.