An electric kick-scooter that can autonomously drive itself back to charging points has been presented at a Segway-Ninebot product launch in Beijing. Two autonomous delivery bots for indoor and outdoor use were also on show at the event.
The electric kick-scooter business has attracted a lot of attention since they first hit Californian streets in 2017. Now mobility operators are launching the micro-mobility vehicles throughout cities across the globe. With this new vehicle from Segway and its Chinese owner Ninebot, two major hurdles in the business would be overcome: that the scooters would no longer need to be collected (most commonly by combustion engine vehicles) and the scooters won’t be left lying all over public spaces, but will neatly clean themselves off and trundle back to home base.
The benefits for mobility service providers are obvious. “The pain point for scooter operators is to better maintain the scooters at a lower cost,” Gao Lufeng, Ninebot chairman and chief executive, told Reuters. The Segway-Ninebot CEO said that AI-driven scooters, controlled remotely from the cloud, could radically improve the economics of scooter-sharing. The now presented self-summoning model T60 also features automatic dispatch, cloud service, and wireless charging.
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While operating costs will certainly be reduced through the autonomous capabilities of the T60, the initial outlay is another matter. Segway currently sells its existing (non-autonomous) electric kick-scooters to companies for $100-$300, whereas the autonomous T60 will be priced at close to $1,420.
Since forming in 2015 through a combination of China’s Ninebot and the US-American Segway, the company has become the biggest scooter-sharing supplier for companies such as Lime and Bird. According to a prospectus filed in April this year, the company sold 1.6 million scooters in 2018.
The T60 will apparently start road testing in September this year with the company aiming for commercialisation in the first quarter of next year. In an email to Reuters, a spokeswoman for Lyft said that the company was always interested in seeing the latest innovations from potential partners like Ninebot, but cautioned, that “we haven’t yet made any commitments around this product”.
At the same event, Segway-Ninebot also launched two new delivery robots which are also self-driving. The Segway DeliveryBot S2, and Segway Outdoor DeliveryBot X1 are aimed at the food delivery market in China. The DeliveryBot S2 is built for indoors and able to independently go up and down elevators and is supposed to be able to adapt to any indoor environment.
Segway-Ninebot has been working on autonomous robots for some time, in April last year, we reported on a Segway that follows you.