Precision positioning should improve e-scooter acceptance

Precision positioning should improve e-scooter acceptance

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By Christoph Hammerschmidt

It is true that the software of many e-scooters already provides for the possibility of limiting the vehicles’ areas of use by means of geofencing – in Zurich (Switzerland) for example, certain areas of the old town are closed to e-scooters; if such a vehicle enters this area, the drive is switched off by the software. In addition, there is the possibility of automatically imposing a fine on the respective user.

However, the existing geofencing systems are only accurate to within a few metres. They cannot prevent e-scooter users from using the wrong lane or driving on the pavement and thus endangering pedestrians, for example.

In cooperation with the Swiss provider of positioning systems u-blox, Bird has now developed a sensor fusion solution that determines the position of the vehicle to within a few centimetres – and can thus also determine whether the vehicle is, for example, travelling in a bicycle lane next to the pavement or on the latter after all. It is said that initial attempts with vehicle-bound sensors such as cameras had not led to the desired result. A combined GNSS and dead reckoning module from u-blox brought the hoped-for success. As opposed to traditional GPS with cloud-based maps that can take more than 15 seconds to respond, Bird’s solution can bring a vehicle that has entered onto a sidewalk to a safe stop while allowing the rider to walk the vehicle back to the roadway or bike lane almost in real-time.

The precision positioning module is the market-available ZED-F9R from u-blox. It contains a highly accurate multi-band GNSS receiver that can process signals from the GPS / QZSS, Glonass, Galileo and BeiDou satellite networks. In addition, the module can process position correction signals via the cellular network. If, as is sometime the case in the urban canyons, no satellite and/or mobile phone signal is available, the built-in Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) is used, which also enables highly accurate positioning by dead reckoning.

“After three years of building, testing, and piloting a range of technologies including but not limited to on board cameras, GPS tracking, ultra-wideband, and beacons, we found that each was insufficient with regard to accuracy, precision, immediacy, or scalability. Our testing led us to a collaboration with u-blox which resulted in the development of our end-to-end sensor fusion solution that meets our criteria,” said Scott Rushforth, Chief Vehicle Officer at Bird.

Bird’s sidewalk detection technology is currently being piloted in Milwaukee and San Diego, and is expected to be piloted in Madrid in early 2022.


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