Green Mobility: Precise Positioning Optimizes E-Scooters

07.07.2022 by Daniel Kunz
Woman rides e-scooter over bridge

The combustion engine will soon be history as the future of mobility becomes more electrical and greener. In this context e-scooters have much potential that precise positioning can further enhance.

Hop into the car and drive to the fitness studio, the movies or to friends? If it isn’t an EV, your car’s CO2 emissions – even for what seems a short distance – are not just bad news for the environment. Downtown or at peak periods traffic congestion can quickly make the journey feel like a never-ending story, especially if you factor in the search for somewhere to park.

These are urban mobility situations in which electric scooters come into their own and can improve sustainability. Their electric motors enable users to reach their destination in a more eco-friendly way and can simply cruise past stationary traffic. Scooters are a feature of so-called micromobility (see box) that above all makes it possible to get around more sustainably in urban areas.

Sustainable Mobility Fraught With Pitfalls

Electric scooters have established themselves in many German cities and municipalities since using them became legal in 2019. They lead to conflict potential at times when users leave them at inconvenient locations such as in the middle of the sidewalk or dump them in the midst of nature. That not only sullies the idea of a green alternative to the automobile; it can also be a cost factor for the provider. Users are unlikely to hire an electric scooter that is caked in mud or has been thrown into the bushes.

Definition | What is Micromobility?

The Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMVI) defines micromobility as locomotion by means of the smallest category of electric vehicle, such as e-scooters or Segways, but not e-bikes because bicycles have a saddle or seat. The BMVI sees the main potential of micromobility as the ability to make the last mile more climate-friendly. If people don’t drive to or from the railroad station by car but by e-scooter or Segway instead, they will reduce CO2 emissions.

To ensure that e-scooters are left somewhere safe after use, providers can specify parking zones or define local docking or charging stations in large, open spaces nowhere near green areas. They are then the only places where you can end a hire. Leave the scooter anywhere else and you continue to pay for using it. But providers must use a system that enables them to locate their vehicles. The French e-scooter provider KNOT, for example, has equipped its scooters with IoT technology to locate them. It used to use GNSS data but found GNSS not to be precise enough. The divergence could easily be ten meters or more. If the system then fails to realize that users have left their scooters in an authorized area and refuses to acknowledge their return, the user experience is definitely marred. That was why, to solve the problem, KNOT equipped its scooters with Precise Positioning technology.

Urban Mobility With Optimized Efficiency

Precise Positioning, developed by Telekom and Swift Navigation, uses GNSS position data provided by a global navigation satellite system such as America’s GPS or Europe’s Galileo for greater accuracy. Swift Navigation’s cloud-based corrections service Skylark accesses a network of hundreds of measuring stations on several continents to identify local deviations in satellite navigation. The two data flows merge via a GNSS receiver and IoT hardware at the vehicle – in this case the scooter –, making precise positioning to within four centimeters possible.

Precise Positioning quickly convinced KNOT. While the system, using GNSS navigation, often mistakenly located an e-scooter off the road, the Telekom solution always reliably identified its correct position. The superior technology benefits both the company and its customers. KNOT always knows exactly where its e-scooters are and can take them more easily to sites where they are most frequently in demand. Users can rely on the system to ensure that the handover process runs smoothly in a defined return area. And the provider makes its e-scooters a little more sustainable with its charging stations because the scooters no longer need to be collected and taken elsewhere for their batteries to be recharged.

IoT Measures for Improved Road Safety

Inconveniently abandoned e-scooters are not the only criticism of the more sustainable alternative to the automobile. Other road users are annoyed that e-scooter users run risks at times. With the aid of Precise Positioning an Irish scooter provider aims to tackle this problem. ZEUS is the world’s first manufacturer to rely on three-wheeler scooters and for test purposes has equipped its scooters with PGM (Precision GNSS Module) evaluation kit along with the Skylark corrections service from the cloud. Combined with the tilt sensor with which all ZEUS scooters are equipped, precise position data has enabled ZEUS to analyze users’ driving style more exactly than with a conventional GNSS solution of any kind.

Smart Mobility: Sustainability Thanks to IoT

Smart Mobility stands for both more climate-friendly locomotion and digitization of mobility. The concept was devised in response to challenges in road traffic such as more vehicles and higher CO2 emissions, poorer air quality and more and more congestion. According to the German statistics office Statista the trend is clear: smart mobility spending is set to nearly triple to around €90bn by 2026. Electromobility will account for the lion’s share and shared mobility for the remainder, with the Internet of Things as the driving force behind many use cases. Along with e-scooters connected via the IoT, connecting cars is a central topic. Connected cars share traffic information with other vehicles and traffic systems. If a tailback seems likely to lie ahead the on-board system automatically suggests an alternative route. That reduces driving time and fuel consumption, making a decisive contribution to sustainable urban mobility.

If the system registers conspicuous movement patterns, maybe because the user is drunk, ZEUS can automatically reduce the e-scooter’s speed remotely, bringing it to a standstill if need be. The provider can also specify the route to be taken. If the user leaves it, the system can also bring the scooter to a standstill. That has benefits for all concerned. For one, the technology prevents misuse, accidents and injuries to the user or to third parties. It makes using e-scooters safer. For another, fewer accidents means less damage to scooters. And ZEUS like KNOT, uses Precise Positioning to establish the exact location of its scooters. So the solution helps the company to keep a constant eye on its scooter fleet and to deploy it efficiently.


 

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Daniel Kunz
Daniel Kunz

Expert Digital Marketing

Digitization and the Internet of Things are among the favourite topics of Daniel Kunz. He has been with Deutsche Telekom since 2017 and regularly writes about technology trends and many exciting topics, especially for the retail trade and the logistics industry.