Sep 25, 2019

SF grants full operating permits to 4 scooter companies

Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

After a year-long pilot program, San Francisco has granted operating permits to 4 scooter companies: Lime, JUMP (owned by Uber), Scoot (owned by Bird), and Spin (owned by Ford). Existing permit holder Skip did not make the cut.

Why it matters: As the home of a number of these scooter companies — and a frequent battleground between the local tech industry and its government — San Francisco's permits have been among the most coveted. And despite an early backlash to the 2-wheeled vehicles from residents and city officials, scooters are here to stay in San Francisco.

  • Among the changes to the permits since the test program: Twice as many companies will be allowed to operate (up from only Scoot and Skip during the test), and while they'll each have 1,000 scooters on the streets, they'll also be able to raise the number to 2,500 if they meet certain requirements.
  • The companies will be able to start operating on Oct. 15.
We respect SFMTA’s process and feedback. We look forward to addressing areas of improvement with SFMTA per their review process and timeline. We’re proud to have helped make the first scooter sharing pilot in San Francisco a success and to see the program expanding in the coming year.
— Skip spokesperson

The big picture: Since first showing up on the streets of San Francisco and other cities in the spring of 2018, scooter companies have faced local complaints, heavy regulations, fundraising roller coasters, and even acquisitions. Still, it remains to be seen how these companies can make their financial math work to build profitable businesses.

Editor's note: The story has been updated with a statement from Skip.

Go deeper

SF considers a new office to manage "emerging technologies"

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

San Francisco legislators have a new idea to tackle all the new tech that roams around their streets: an Office of Emerging Technologies that would dole out approvals to startups and companies wishing to unleash new gadgets and services on the city.

Why it matters: San Francisco is home to many tech companies that aim to reshape urban life, but the city has often seemed ill-prepared to deal with them, whether by welcoming or regulating them.

Go deeperArrowOct 14, 2019

Next up: Self-driving scooters

Illustration: Caresse Haaser/Axios

San Francisco startup Tortoise is working on (eventually) applying self-driving tech developed for autos to scooters and bikes. The goal: eliminate the need for human labor that rental companies now use to ferry vehicles around, redistributing them across a city or getting them charged.

The big picture: With "micromobility" potentially emerging as the next big wave of transportation, companies are looking to make scooters and other small vehicles as efficient and convenient as possible. Cutting labor costs and making sure vehicles are always nearby when a customer needs one is Tortoise's pitch.

Go deeperArrowOct 15, 2019

E-scooter company Bird raises $275 million

llustration:Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Electric scooter rental company Bird today announced $275 million in Series D funding at what we hear was a $2.5 billion pre-money valuation. CDPQ and Sequoia Capital co-led the round.

The bottom line: E-scooter companies are simultaneously working to curb losses, curry favor with city regulators, and convince investors they're the next great transportation revolution.