Gadget Enthusiast

New Competition For Bike-Sharing Firms - Local Startup Rolls Out E-Scooters In Singapore

Last year, we wrote about Telepod – a local e-scooter sharing startup founded by four Nanyang Technological University (NTU) alumni.

According to their website, the young team created Telepod as a multi-purpose e-scooter sharing platform to accommodate to three different groups of consumers – tourists, local commuters, as well as businesses.

Screenshot of Telepod’s website

Back then, Telepod was still in its nascent stages, launching a pilot project to allow the public to rent and ride the e-scooters at Punggol Waterway area.

They also held a two-day trial at Republic Polytechnic which received an overwhelming response – their scooters were rented over 200 times at a price of $2 for 10 minutes.

E-Scooter Trials At Suntec City And NTU

On Monday (June 5), Telepod officially launched its e-scooter sharing service, starting out with 10 dockless e-scooters available for rent.

Users can book the e-scooters through the free Telepod mobile app.

After scanning a QR code located on the floor, the scooter will then be unlocked for use.

Compared to the rental fees during the pilot phase, Telepod has since halved it – users are now charged only $1 for every 10 minutes, capped at a maximum of 6 hours. A one-time $49 refundable deposit is also required.

Telepod is currently implementing designated zones for the e-scooters to be picked up and dropped off, with the first one located outside Suntec Convention Centre’s main entrance.

This will be part of a four-month trial and the number of e-scooters made available could be scaled up depending on the demand.

Telepod’s designated zone at Suntec City / Image Credit: Telepod’s Facebook page

According to Louis Goh, Telepod co-founder and chief operating officer, this designated zone can help prevent potential theft and damage to the e-scooters, which is rampant among the shared bikes here in Singapore.

The e-scooters can only be collected or released within the designated zone using Telepod’s in-house tracking technology. To end the trip, users need to scan the QR code at the designated zone itself.

All e-scooters will also be equipped with GPS tracking and alarm systems, and can even be remotely disabled when required.

Besides Suntec City, Telepod is also embarking on another trial project with Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

But unlike the Suntec trial, the e-scooter sharing scheme at NTU will be free for a start.

From next month, 50 e-scooters will be available at three locations on the NTU campus – CleanTech Park, Research Techno Plaza and North Hill Residences.

Another 50 scooters will be added by October when transport operator SMRT comes on board. This is part of a collaboration between NTU, SMRT and JTC, to develop solutions that integrate multiple modes of transport.

Are E-Scooters Safe?

Compared to bikes, e-scooters are a more ‘powerful’ ride, so riders may therefore be more prone to accidents. Moreover, I think e-scooters have a slightly steeper learning curve so riders may need some time to actually get used to riding one.

This begs the question: are e-scooters safe? And how fast do they go?

According to Telepod, the maximum speed of the scooters has been capped at 25 km/h – this is in line with Land Transport Authority (LTA) regulations.

Additionally, these scooters are banned on the roads. If found guilty, offenders can be fined $2,000 and face a jail term of up to three months.

But speed aside, Chan Jit Yen, the 27-year-old co-founder of Telepod, asserted that riders play a huge role in staying safe.

“The e-scooter is not dangerous, it’s how the user uses it,” he said.

Ultimately, riders need to be responsible in maintaining a safe speed and be wary of their surroundings.

Even if the Telepod’s scooters are at a capped speed, reckless or careless riding can still result in accidents.

Competing Against The Bike-Sharing Companies

While Telepod is the only player in the e-scooter sharing scheme in Singapore, it still suffers an indirect competition from ofo, oBike and Mobike.

These three bike-sharing firms may have suffered some hiccups (vandalism, theft and damage to their properties) throughout their startup journey, but it is still clear that the bike-sharing scheme is taking off in Singapore.

Especially since e-scooters are way more expensive than bicycles, Telepod therefore faces a higher risk than the bike-sharing companies. As such, a major cause of concern for Telepod right now is whether its tech integrations can really help to ward off the same detrimental consequences.

After all, you can have a good system, but user behaviour is difficult for anyone to predict and manage.

Nonetheless, Goh seems to be very optimistic and instead of seeing the bike-sharing companies as an obstacle, he sees them as a form of opportunity or leverage.

“The public is now learning to use bike-sharing systems, so it’s a good time for the public to learn about the e-scooter systems too,” he said.

Image Credit: Telepod’s Facebook page

Ultimately, I still think that it’s a brilliant idea for Telepod to help bridge the last-mile problem, which is considered the most inefficient part of public transport.

I also think it’s possible for all four players to co-exist in the same playing field, as long as each of them capture a different segment of Singapore.

We’ll just have to wait and see for the e-scooters to be rolled out in more parts of Singapore to see how this pans out.

Meanwhile, Telepod does have plans to extend their service to other areas and set up designated zones at Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands and nearby MRT stations.

Featured Image Credit: Telepod’s Facebook page 

 

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