14 companies in the running for PMD-sharing licence

Neuron Mobility's e-scooters parked outside the Ascent building in Science Park Drive yesterday. The Singapore-based firm is one of 14 vying for a personal mobility device-sharing licence from the LTA.
Neuron Mobility's e-scooters parked outside the Ascent building in Science Park Drive yesterday. The Singapore-based firm is one of 14 vying for a personal mobility device-sharing licence from the LTA.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Fourteen companies have applied to operate personal mobility device (PMD) sharing services.

The companies vying for the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) device-sharing licence - which will allow them to run fleets of devices like e-scooters - include existing players such as local start-ups Neuron Mobility and Telepod.

New contenders include US company Helbiz and Singapore's Omni Sharing, the major shareholder in failed bike-sharing firm oBike.

Applications for the licence closed on Monday.

The licence caps the number of devices a company can run, and requires the firms to take measures to curb indiscriminate parking.

Two existing bike-sharing operators - local firm Anywheel and China-based Mobike - have also applied for the licence.

The LTA said it will adopt a "conservative approach" in setting the fleet size for the operators.

E-scooter sharing services have taken off internationally in the last two years, with Lime and Bird, both from the US, valued at about US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) each.

A Telepod spokesman said the company is "confident" it can get the licence, while Neuron Mobility chief executive Zachary Wang said his company had invested very heavily in making its scooters "more regulation friendly".

But National University of Singapore transport lecturer Lee Der Horng wondered if the small-scale operations required by the LTA would be commercially viable.

He also doubted the safety of PMDs, saying: "How many people are really able to safely use them if they have no experience?"

A survey by non-profit magazine Consumer Report this month found that more than 1,500 people had been injured in e-scooter accidents in the US since late 2017 .

Meanwhile, Moov Mobility and Ywise Circle have applied to operate shared bikes under the LTA's bicycle-sharing sandbox licence.

Mobike, whose bike fleet is capped at 25,000, and Anywheel, which operates 1,000 bikes under the sandbox licence, have also applied to expand their fleet sizes.

The outcome of all applications will be known in the second quarter of this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2019, with the headline '14 companies in the running for PMD-sharing licence'. Print Edition | Subscribe