Lime scooter fault can cause sudden excessive braking when going downhill

When you’re riding downhill at speed on an electric scooter, the last thing you want to happen is for the brake to suddenly engage, without your input. Why? Because there’s a good chance you’ll land up not only on your butt, but in a hospital, too.

Worryingly, this is exactly what’s been happening to a small number of riders using Lime’s rental scooters, prompting the company to issue a safety alert.

“Recently we detected a bug in the firmware of our scooter fleet that under rare circumstances could cause sudden excessive braking during use,” San Francisco-based Lime said in its message to riders.

It explained that after analyzing the scooters, it had determined that “in very rare cases — usually riding downhill at top speed while hitting a pothole or other obstacle — excessive brake force on the front wheel can occur, resulting in a scooter stopping unexpectedly.”

Yes, that does sound terrifying. Lime’s scooters have a top speed of around 15 mph, but with the assistance of a downward slope, they can go much, much faster.

Lime scooters pulled

The company said that the braking issue has affected less than 0.0045 percent of Lime scooter rides, but noted that “some riders have been injured, and, although most have been bumps and bruises, any injury is one too many.”

The situation has been deemed so serious that officials in Auckland, New Zealand — where a number of injuries related to the issue have been reported — have pulled Lime scooters from the city’s streets until the company confirms it’s properly fixed the problem.

Under pressure to solve the issue, Lime said that in the last few days it has developed fixes for the software and has started to roll them out to the scooters, a move that it said “immediately resulted in a material reduction of occurrences.” It added, “A final update is now being dispatched to every Lime scooter in the market and will be complete shortly.”

In the meantime, as a precautionary measure, Lime is recommending that riders test the scooter’s brake before setting out, and to use extra caution over the next few days, “especially when riding downhill.”

Even without a software glitch to compound the issue, the safety of scootershare services has come under the spotlight recently, with reports of hundreds of riders and pedestrians ending up in the hospital with accident-related injuries ranging from smashed teeth and dislocations to gashes and broken bones. Several deaths have also been reported.

Concerned that officials may impose stricter regulations if safety doesn’t improve, Lime, for one, recently spent $3 million on a campaign to encourage its users to ride more safely and responsibly.

A pledge published by the company asks riders to consider other city dwellers, as well as abide by all traffic laws, keep within designated areas, and park out of the way of pedestrian walkways.

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