San Francisco, among other cities, has become a US launchpad for dockless electric scooter rentals, where, overnight, the downtown’s sidewalks and stoops are suddenly teeming with the abandoned-at-first-glance-but-not-really transports. Some locals are championing these as a healthy addition that can help solve our overcrowded streets; others find them a littering nuisance. One SF supervisor even sought their removal until a permitting system could be established for companies wishing to put their scooters on the sidewalks.
With the VC money behind these rides further irking some, stories and images of e-scooter vandalism have become common, including tales of snipped brake lines and images of scooters tossed into Oakland’s Lake Merritt (note: for nature’s sake, please don’t do this).
That vandalism has led to one interesting discovery that lands close to the maker community — a photo of cracked-open Bird scooter on twitter reveals that part of the electronics is a Particle Electron board, a microcontroller that offers cellular LTE connectivity, most likely to help a rider unlock a scooter via the company’s app, and for the company to keep track of the scooter’s location. And who knows, maybe to send a message to HQ if it detects someone is trying to break into it — if you’re thinking about busting one open to score an Electron board of your own, don’t. That’s illegal, and makers are cooler than that anyway.
Someone clipped this Bird’s wings. #cappstreet
— Capp Street Crap (@cappstreetcrap) April 11, 2018
These dockless scooters and their pedal-powered bicycle siblings are now available globally (the concept took root in Europe and Asia before moving to the United States), meaning there are thousands of these rides around the world. We don’t know how many of them are powered by Particle boards or other maker-friendly devices, but it’s not unlikely that, with today’s business strategy of moving fast and adjusting later, the rapid prototyping needs have likely leveraged these tools in many scooter and e-bike instances. Know of others? Pop a note to us in the comments below.