Or, how Superpedestrian is taking its cues from South Park
This is the second in a series about Pedestrian Defense
In the Halloween horror South Park episode “The Scoots,” a Fornite-infused parody of Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” e-scooters seemingly multiply like rabbits, swamp the town’s sidewalks, and bring out the worst in the town’s residents.
You don’t have to be from South Park to relate, and that’s a problem. Unsafe parking and riding are existential threats to micromobility, and we at Superpedestrian are committed to tackling these problems.
To date, the industry has failed to deliver a solution to these pervasive issues. Regular GPS isn’t accurate enough, computer vision is fragile and hard to scale, and nobody has figured out the dynamic sensing and controls necessary to curb wrong-way riding, aggressive swerving and other unsafe behavior showcased by the underage riders on South Park. Well, residents of South Park and other e-scootering communities, Superpedestrian has the solution!
Last month, with some fanfare, Superpedestrian announced the acquisition of the Palo Alto-based Navmatic and its patented Pedestrian Defense system. There were more than a few hallelujahs about the new technology, from cities and safety advocates alike. But in an industry rife with vaporware and empty promises, there was also healthy skepticism. Can Pedestrian Defense really work to protect walkers, people with disabilities and other vulnerable road users from the hazards of errant e-scooters?
Proving it on the street
In a series of four live on-street demonstrations led by Superpedestrian’s Boaz Mamo, Sharon Zhang, and Walter Rosenkranz — one in San Diego and three in Los Angeles — we proved that our technology can deliver:
- accurate positioning within 50 cm, even in urban canyons and poor visibility conditions
- real-time prevention — not just latent detection — of sidewalk riding and misparking
- detection and correction of wrong-way riding, swerving and other unsafe behaviors
City officials, safety advocates, university researchers and key community stakeholders were in attendance at the four demos.
How were these demonstrations received by those who attended?
“We saw two major types of reactions to our demonstrations,” says Sharon.
“The first was ‘wow, this really works’. This was gratifying to hear. People are skeptical because every micro mobility technology announced is painted as the end all be all toolkit to further the industry, but this one really is. The team at Navmatic has been working on this technology — now patented for years. And it works and worked in our private trials and our real life tests in front of a live demonstration. That skepticism all melted away when the faces of city officials and community stakeholders light up with the possibility.”
“The second reaction was, ‘How can we use the data to tell when unsafe riding is not a behavior issue, but a policy or infrastructure issue?’,” added Sharon.
The four Pedestrian Defense demonstrations took place at a diverse array of locations: San Diego’s skyscraper-dense downtown, UCLA’s campus, and the vibrant, pedestrian-rich downtowns of West Hollywood and Long Beach.
From Detection to Correction
“There were more questions than I thought there would be about how the technology works, and how it works without cameras and computer vision,” says Mamo.
Pedestrian Defense works via Super Fusion, a patented technique that uses an array of sense data — geolocation, interia, wheel speed — to yield not just accurate location but a real time understanding of how the vehicle is moving.
“It’s this combination of accurate location and dynamic ride data that gives us the ability to detect, with a high degree of certainty, whether or not a scooter is being parked and ridden safely,” says Mamo. “But merely detecting sidewalk riding, wrong-way riding, aggressive swerving is one thing, actively correcting it is another. It is that capability that cities find valuable.”
With its integration into Superpedestrian’s existing Vehicle Intelligence platform, the Pedestrian Defense system controls the scooter in real-time to enforce safe behavior. A scooter will be slowed to an immediate stop as it crosses a sidewalk boundary, for example, and a rider going the wrong way down a one-way street will automatically be slowed to a stop after an audible and visual alert.
“This is the basic compliance that cities are demanding,” says Zhang. “But more than correcting rider behavior, Pedestrian Defense is also the tool to help cities and communities correct street management and design.”
Pedestrian Defense isn’t just a demo, it’s coming
Starting later this year, all new Superpedestrian LINK scooters will come equipped with Pedestrian Defense as a standard feature, fleet-wide. Meanwhile, we’ll be hosting demonstrations for city officials, safety advocates, key stakeholders and really anyone who is excited about how the collaborative application of cutting-edge technology can unlock the extraordinary potential of micromobility to replace car trips and create greener, more connected cities. If you are interested in scheduling or attending a demo, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.