Start-up planning e-scooter rental scheme

Telepod CEO Gan Jin Ni with one of her firm's e-scooters and docking stations. The company is aiming to improve the first and last mile of commuter journeys, and was formed in response to an LTA competition that called for innovative transport soluti
Telepod CEO Gan Jin Ni with one of her firm's e-scooters and docking stations. The company is aiming to improve the first and last mile of commuter journeys, and was formed in response to an LTA competition that called for innovative transport solutions.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

Telepod's programme is similar to a bicycle-sharing system

With personal mobility devices (PMDs) becoming more popular, a start-up company here is looking to launch a pilot programme offering short-term rentals of e-scooters.

Called Telepod, the scheme functions like a bicycle-sharing system, where users can rent e-scooters from docking stations.

The company has developed a prototype docking station that secures a folded-up e-scooter, which can be retrieved by scanning a QR code on the station with a mobile app.

Telepod, founded by five friends who met while studying at Nanyang Technological University, is one of 21 finalists in a Land Transport Authority (LTA) engineering competition for groups to come up with innovative transport solutions.

The group's project is on display at the Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition, a three-day conference at the Suntec City Convention Centre that ends today.

Telepod is looking to launch a pilot system of between 20 and 40 e-scooters by the end of this year at the Social Innovation Park in Punggol, an incubator for social enterprises, said its CEO Gan Jin Ni, 26.

SAFETY IS ON USER 

The e-scooter is not dangerous; it's how the user uses it. '' 

MS CHAN JIT YEN, Telepod co-founder.

Residents and workers in the area can take the e-scooters for a spin to the Punggol Waterway area. Pricing details have not been finalised, said Ms Gan.

The team began working on the project in April, with the goal of developing a transport solution to cater to the first and last mile of commuters' journeys.

They ruled out a bicycle-sharing system because of the cost.

"A lot of bicycle-sharing systems rely heavily on government funding," said Ms Gan, adding that a big chunk of the operating costs stem from regularly redistributing the bicycles through the network.

E-scooters are smaller and easier to redistribute, she said.

Ms Gan developed a mobile app, while other members in the team developed the docking station - which requires only power supply to be set up.

To rent an e-scooter, a user books one on the app, and scans a QR code on the docking station, which unlocks it.

The company ran a two-day trial in August in Woodlands, where they offered 15 e-scooters to students of Republic Polytechnic to travel between the school and Woodlands MRT station, about 1km apart.

They charged $2 for 10 minutes of use. Over the two days, the e-scooters were rented 202 times.

"The response was quite overwhelming," said Ms Gan, adding that she was confident the idea could also be used in large business complexes or within the business district.

Asked about safety concerns, Telepod said its e-scooters would have their speeds capped at 25kmh, and helmets would also be provided at docking stations.

"The e-scooter is not dangerous; it's how the user uses it," said Telepod co-founder Chan Jit Yen, 26.

Safety concerns over PMDs also featured in a panel discussion at the congress yesterday.

A member of the audience asked about Singapore's stance on PMDs, given concerns about safety.

LTA director of active mobility and policy Tan Shin Gee said the Government would facilitate the use of PMDs, as some people desire a lightweight mode of transport "less strenuous than walking or cycling".

"The emphasis should be on making sure people know what are the rules, and what are the appropriate codes of conduct or etiquette when they use such devices and share public spaces with people," said Ms Tan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline 'Start-up planning e-scooter rental scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe