Santa Monica’s second shared mobility pilot program began on July 1 with five device types provided by operators Veo, Spin, Wheels, and Lyft.
In choosing these providers, members of the City’s selection committee scored a variety of factors including provider experience, rule compliance, device durability, sustainability, safety features, affordability, local hiring, and customer service. Between the four providers, there are Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes, two and three-wheeled e-scooters, and a seated two-wheel e-scooter on offer.
Devices are not allowed on sidewalks, Third Street Promenade or the Santa Monica beach bike path, with the exception of the Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes offered by Lyft and Veo, which are allowed to be ridden on the beach bike path.
Santa Monica based company Bird was not selected to participate. After filing an appeal and a subsequent litigation threat, Bird was still denied entry, forcing the company to remove all devices from the city by July 1.
Bird was also recently kicked out of San Francisco where it had taken over operations of e-scooter company Scoot.
There are currently 2,200 devices allowed in Santa Monica, however several companies have yet to deploy their full allotments. Each operator offers devices at different price points with different accessibility and safety features that are outlined below.
Spin was allocated 500 two-wheel and 200 three-wheel scooters.
According to a Spin Spokesperson, the company intends to scale up to 500 deployed devices by mid July and then increase incrementally in accordance with demand.
Spin devices have several unique features designed to ensure safe riding and proper parking.
All devices are equipped with tip detection, which enables the app to send a notification to the rider if they park their scooter tipped over and alerts the Spin operation team to respond to tipped devices, if the problem is not corrected. Spin’s three-wheel scooters have a “Spin Valet” feature that allows remote operators to detect when scooters are parked incorrectly and prompt the scooter to self-drive to an appropriate parking spot.
Although several operators are developing sidewalk riding detection technology, Spin will be the first company to launch this technology on “a significant number” of two-wheel scooters in Santa Monica.
“Spin Insight Level 2 powered by Drover AI uses a camera that “looks” at the ground in the front area of the scooter,” said a Spin Spokesperson.
“Using machine learning, the images are analyzed by the computer on the scooter to determine if it sees a sidewalk, bike path or parking area. It then lets the user and surrounding pedestrians know if they are riding inappropriately with an audible warning.”
Other unique features to Spin include the stability of its three-wheel scooter and their Access Area program, where rides that begin in the Pico area will cost 25 percent less. Standard rides cost $1 to unlock and $0.39 per minute of riding plus taxes and fees.
Veo launched in Santa Monica on July 9 with 50 of their Astro VS4 scooters and 50 Cosmo-E bikes. The fleet will gradually be deployed with the full allotted capacity of 200 scooters and 500 bikes expected to be reached by the end of July, according to a Veo Spokesperson.
“Santa Monica is the first city in the U.S. that will have access to Veo’s new Astro VS4 scooter, equipped with safety features that no other shared e-scooter in the industry has, including turn signals to improve predictability and communication with surrounding vehicular traffic and pedestrians, and lights designed specifically for night riding,” said Veo Co-founder and CEO Candice Xie.
The Cosmo-E bike features a low seat and center of gravity making it easier for riders who are less athletic or have a physical impairment to maintain balance and control. The Class 2 e-bike has a throttle and does not require riders to continuously pedal.
Veo uses GPS and LTE to track devices’ locations and geofence areas as no ride, slow ride, no parking, or recommended parking zone. In order to incentivize proper parking, Veo has established geofenced “lucky zones”, which riders will earn $1 ride credit for parking their devices in.
Veo devices cost $1 to unlock and $0.33 a minute to ride. In addition to the lucky zone discount incentive, residents who apply for a “resident pass” through the app can have their $1 unlock fees waived.
The Chicago-based company also plans on building a new HQ in Santa Monica, which will generate local jobs. Veo is currently developing sidewalk riding detection tech and plans to pilot it in Santa Monica.
Wheels was not initially selected for inclusion in the second pilot program, but after filing an appeal, Transportation Director Ed King granted the company permission to bring 200 of their two-wheel seated scooters to the city.
Wheels’s argument for inclusion was that they offer a unique seated scooter device type with strong safety features.
“Our ‘safety first’ strategy led us to forego using the traditional stand-up scooter in favor of a completely different form factor – one with much bigger wheels, a lower center of gravity, Bluetooth speakers to allow riders to get navigation without holding their phones, and a seat for more points of contact with the rider,” said Marco McCottry, CEO of Wheels.
Like Veo and Spin, Wheels geofences its devices to detect no riding areas. Once a rider enters a no scooter area, the app will prompt them to safely slow the device to a stop. Riders will not be able to end their ride in a no scooter area. Wheels is currently working on integrating sidewalk detection tech into its next generation of devices.
Wheels cost $1 to unlock and $0.39 per minute to ride plus tax. Santa Monica riders who are enrolled in a city, state, or federal associate program such as Medicaid, EBT, SNAP, or a discounted utility bill can ride for free for the first 30 minutes of their trip through the “Wheels for All” program.
Lyft is the only provider from the first shared mobility program that is also included in the second, however this time only its e-bikes and not its scooters are allowed.
Lyft is allocated 600 Class 1 bikes, which are electric assisted but do not have a throttle. Lyft bikes cost $1 to unlock, $0.34 per minute to ride and while docking is free at any Lyft station, it costs $1 at public bike racks.
Lyft did not respond to a request for comment on the safety, parking, and accessibility features of its devices.