For better — and worse — the electric scooter companies that are the talk of Silicon Valley are taking a page right out of Uber's playbook. This is especially true of Bird, a company run by former Uber and Lyft executive Travis VanderZanden.
What's happening: These companies are showing up unannounced, allowing their scooters to pile up on city sidewalks, and leaving it to cities to figure out how to regulate them (which many cities are now doing).
Kia Kokalitcheva has a deep dive on Bird, including an interview with VanderZanden.
Here's the big problem: Bird and its brethren aren't Uber and Lyft. Uber and Lyft represented a credible alternative to taxis, which in many cities were disliked, hard to hail, or both.
- At best, these motorized scooters represent a small component of the future of transportation. Yet they are have quickly become a huge nuisance, clogging up sidewalks and creating a safety hazard as well.
- The scooters are not designed to be used on sidewalks, but can often be seen there. Plus, riders are supposed to wear helmets, but none are provided.
To be sure, there is a different kind of shared scooter that addresses a bigger part part of the transportation puzzle: Companies like Gogoro offer electric versions of the sort of mini-motorcycles already popular in places like Taiwan.
Meanwhile: In New Orleans today, I am moderating a discussion on the future of transportation with Ford's John Kwant and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. I'm sure we will be talking a bit about scooters — and a lot more about autonomous cars, bike sharing and public transit.