Uber is reportedly recruiting engineers to develop autonomous electric bikes and scooters that will be able to ‘drive’ themselves to charging stations or to where people need them.
The ride-hailing firm entered the dockless electric bike and scooter hire market last year when it acquired US start-up Jump, and has since said it will focus on those modes of transport for short trips.
According to Telegraph.co.uk, Uber has begun hiring for a new “micromobility robotics” team that will fall under its Jump division.
The initiative is reportedly aimed at improving the efficiency – and bottom line – of the business, which currently relies on contractors to collect, charge and redistribute bicycles overnight, as well as carrying out any necessary repairs.
Uber has said in an online recruitment page that it aims to “improve safety, rider experience, and operational efficiency of our shared electric scooters and bicycles through the application of sensing and robotics technologies.”
Last December, Jump introduced its latest bikes, which include self-diagnostics and batteries that can be swapped out.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Jump’s head of product, Nick Foley, said: “That is a major improvement to system utilisation, the operating system, fleet uptime and all of the most critical metrics about how businesses are performing with running a shared fleet.
“Swappable batteries mean you don’t have to take vehicles back to wherever you charge a bike or scooter, and that’s good for the business.”
TechCrunch said that Uber had declined to comment on the latest development.
The company is currently testing self-driving cars in parts of the US having suspended a trial after a cyclist was killed by one of the vehicles in Arizona. The Uber employee in the vehicle was reportedly watching a streamed TV show at the time.
As with self-driving cars, there will presumably be legal barriers to where and how autonomous electric bikes and scooters may be operated.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.