Uber’s first electric-scooter service takes on Lyft in Santa Monica

Uber has just launched its first scooter-sharing service as part of further efforts to diversify its business.

Coming only a few weeks after ridesharing rival Lyft launched its first scooter service in Denver, Colorado, Uber has chosen the Californian city of Santa Monica for its own debut.

Uber’s electric scooters don’t bear its company branding — the service is operated by Jump, the bike- and scooter-sharing business that it acquired in April 2018.

Each of the 250 red-colored electric scooters can be rented via the Uber app. Riders can see nearby available scooters on a map, and reserve them straight away for $1. Rental costs 15 cents a minute but that doesn’t kick in until the first five minutes have passed. In a bid to grab some attention for its new service, Uber has made the scooters free to use through October 7.

Take note, though, Uber’s electric scooters aren’t dockless, so you’ll have to leave them in designated pick-up and drop-off points located across Santa Monica.

The company goes up against similar services in Santa Monica, with Bird and Lime, as well as Lyft, also operating scooter-sharing schemes there as part of an 18-month pilot scheme. Uber actually partnered with Lime in July and hopes of integrating its service into the Uber app by the end of the year.

“As we work toward having your phone replace your car, we’re thinking about all the possible times you’d hop in the car and go, and what smart, equally-as-convenient option we could offer to get you there instead,” Rhea Dookeran, Uber’s product manager for scooters, said in a post announcing the new service. “Whether going that last mile home from the train, to your favorite nearby restaurant, or between offices, scooters are an affordable, environmentally friendly way to get there.”

The launch of the scooter is in line with the company’s recently stated desire to become what Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi describes as an “urban mobility platform.”

The boss said he believes two-wheelers are better suited to inner-city travel than large cars, saying in an interview in August that particularly during busy times of the day, it’s “very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks.” Uber (via Jump) and a slew of other companies already operate bike-sharing schemes in many U.S. cities.

Bike- and scooter-sharing services from multiple companies have been launching in cities across the U.S. over the last few years, though the reception among locals has been mixed. While riders find them a convenient and cheap way to zip across town, some residents have complained about cluttered sidewalks and reckless riding habits. Many city governments were taken by surprise by the rapid influx of such services, and are only recently beginning to properly regulate them in a bid to ensure their safe integration into city life.

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