Is Uber planning to put its self-driving tech into bikes and scooters?

Uber is setting up a new robotics unit apparently aimed at incorporating autonomous technology into its rental bicycles and scooters.

The company is already developing a driverless car, but the new “Micromobility Robotics” unit will explore ways to enhance aspects of its bike and scootersharing services, TechCrunch reported.

The revelation came via a DIY Robocars meet-up in California over the weekend, where it was learned that the new unit will exist as a part of Jump, the bike and scootersharing company that Uber acquired in 2018.

Such app-based services let you rent bikes and scooters for trips across town, with charges made by the minute. While some require the rider to leave the vehicle in a designated parking zone, others, such as Jump, are dockless, meaning you can leave them pretty much anywhere. A costly element of the operation comes from the effort it takes to ensure the electric bikes and scooters maintain fully charged batteries, and are left in locations that are easily reachable by subsequent riders.

While Uber is yet to confirm the specific aims of its Micromobility Robotics unit, multiple reports suggest it may be exploring the idea of building self-driving bikes and scooters that travel to riders who summon them using the app, or that automatically return to depots to have their batteries recharged.

Safety focus?

If the idea of numerous bicycles and scooters trundling about town by themselves sounds far-fetched, then it’s also possible that the company is looking at ways to use autonomous technology to improve the safety of its two-wheelers. This could involve fitting its electric two-wheelers with obstacle avoidance sensors to reduce the chances of accidents.

Mobility services have come under the spotlight recently after a number of users were injured or killed in accidents involving pedestrians or cars. As recently as January 18, a woman in New Zealand riding a Lime electric scooter was hospitalized with serious injuries after colliding with a truck in the New Zealand city of Dunedin. Details of the accident aren’t yet clear.

Uber building an “urban mobility platform”

Uber’s growing interest in taking its business beyond car-based ridesharing is part of the company’s strategy to build what its CEO describes as an “urban mobility platform.”

Dara Khosrowshahi said in August 2018 that two-wheelers are better suited to inner-city travel than large cars — especially during rush hour — as it’s “very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks.”

Uber’s plan mirrors similar moves made by rival ridesharing company Lyft, and include a string of big investments in the market and the recent launch of its own app-based scooter service.

Mobile

Lyft’s wallet-friendly Shared Saver option arrives in six more U.S. cities

Lyft is expanding its wallet-friendly Shared Saver option to Atlanta, Las Vegas, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle after launching it earlier this year in Denver, New York City, and San Jose.
Mobile

Lyft’s new safety features include an in-app 911 panic button

In an effort to improve the safety of its ridesharing service, Lyft is rolling out several new safety measures that include an in-app panic button so riders can quickly and easily make an emergency call.
Cars

GM hits reverse with Maven carsharing as it closes service in eight cities

GM-owned Maven will close its carsharing service in 8 of the 17 North American cities where it currently operates. Competing with the likes of Zipcar and Car2Go, the app-based service offers car rental by the hour or day.
Cars

Walmart slashes prices on electric hybrid bicycles for National Bike Month

Electric bikes can be economical, convenient, and fun. Heading into summer, Walmart slashed the prices for two pedal-assist Hyper E-ride Mountain and City Electric Hybrid Bikes by 40%. We found a variety of e-rides for under $1,000.
Health & Fitness

Coros pushes the limits with light, long-lasting Vertix adventure watch

Coros continues to turn heads in the fitness watch market. With a titanium frame and 45 days of battery life, the new Coros Vertix is the lightest and longest lasting adventure watch now available.
Deals

The Dragon Touch Vision 3 action cam is an affordable GoPro alternative

In the arena of action cameras, GoPro has long held a firm grasp on the top spot. Now, thanks to GoPro alternative Dragon Touch, which is currently on Amazon for just $50, you have a more affordable choice.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Insect drones and kinetic sculpture robots

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Deals

The Garmin Forerunner 35 gets a $50 price slash on Amazon

If you’re looking for an easy way to keep track of your fitness goals, a fitness tracker might be just what you need. The Garmin Forerunner 35 is one of our all-time favorites, and it’s on sale right now for $120.
Outdoors

Take on the forces of nature with one of the best backpacking tents you can buy

Whether you're headed out for the weekend or a thru-hike, these are the best backpacking tents you can buy. A proper backpacking tent allows you to stay comfortable no matter the weather, and won't weigh you down.
Deals

REI Anniversary Sale: Save big on these awesome Garmin smartwatches

If you’re in the market for a full-featured smartwatch that can do double duty as a detailed fitness tracker, look no further: For its Anniversary Sale, REI is offering savings of up to $150 on a few of the best Garmin fitness watches.
Deals

REI Anniversary Sale: Big price cuts on Patagonia, Osprey, and The North Face

The REI Anniversary Sale has big bargains on great equipment from brand names like Osprey, Patagonia, and the North Face right now. We’ve smoked out some of the best deals of the bunch that can save you cash on backpacks, jackets, and…
Deals

REI backpack deals: Save up to 35% on Osprey and Patagonia daypacks

If you’re in the market for a way to carry your gear without spending more than a Benjamin, then these REI deals on Osprey and Patagonia backpacks are just the ticket for your next overnight or weekend adventure.
Deals

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…
Outdoors

Cannondale’s Treadwell app features bring a new joy to casual biking

The Cannondale Treadwell is a bike designed with beginners in mind, using an app-connected technology to help them not only navigate their rides more fully, but also send helpful reminders of maintenance and other needs.