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Why does Uber want to build scooters and motorcycles that can drive themselves?



  Why Uber wants to build scooters and motorcycles that can drive themselves

Robert Alexander / Getty Images

Uber is looking for employees who are helping to develop autonomous scooter and bicycle technology, according to Wired Editor-turned robot entrepreneur Chris Anderson . The goal would be to allow bicycles and scooters to "drive themselves to recharge or to better places". Interested parties wishing to participate in the project can complete this form.

Uber acquired the startup jump for bicycle and scooter bikes last year and continues to offer electric bikes and scooters under the Jump brand. The development of autonomous bicycles and scooters is carried out under the brand Jump, according to Anderson. Uber also has its own self-driving vehicle project called Uber Advanced Technology Group.

One of the biggest logistical challenges for companies renting electric bikes and scooters is how the batteries stay charged. Companies use different charging strategies. Some companies have employees driving around in the city collecting bicycles and returning them to the charging station. A jump competitor named Bird has been experimenting with paying people to collect scooters and charge them at home.

Last month, Jump announced a new e-bike design with replaceable batteries to make charging more efficient.

It would of course be even better if scooters and electric bikes could drive at lower power even to the nearest charging station.

The addition of self-propelled bicycles and scooters could also improve vehicle utilization. Over the course of the day or week, the traffic patterns in some areas can lead to too many and in others to few bicycles. Some bicycle companies send out fleets of vans to transport the bicycles and ensure that they are available throughout the city. Autonomous bicycles could perform this type of redistribution without human assistance.

And while it would be a challenge to keep the vehicles without drivers, this is not necessarily insurmountable. The vehicles that entered DARPA's famed auto-racing car competition in 2005 included a self-propelled motorcycle designed by Anthony Levandowski, a student who became a controversial figure in the self-drive industry. Levandowski's motorcycle had retractable "support wheels" that allowed the motorcycle to stand upright.


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