Last month the movmi team took to the streets of Vancouver for a demo day with LINK by Superpedestrian e-scooters 🛴
Since 2014, LINK’s parent company Superpedestrian – a micromobility robotics company spun out of MIT – has been developing what they say are the world’s most reliable and advanced lightweight electric vehicles, including e-scooters, to help cities move better and smarter. In contrast to many other micromobility operators — launching first, letting riders be the test pilots, and fixing vehicle issues later — Superpedestrian spent over 8 years to build its Vehicle Intelligence System and another 2 years developing its scooter hardware in an effort to ensure that their scooters are the smartest and safest scooters. In 2020, they rolled out their scooter under the name LINK and have expanded to 50+ cities worldwide.
As part of Superpedestrian’s expansion plans to the Canadian market, movmi’s team was invited to test drive their e-scooters. Demo days are an essential part of operational planning, regardless of the municipality. movmi believes that it is critical to test the actual product that will be deployed in your community during an RFP process and before the actual launch.
Check out the movmi team in action! 🛴👇🏽 Keep reading to find out what we thought of LINK’s e-scooters!
movmi’s Demo Day with LINK e-scooters
What makes Superpedestrian’s e-scooters different?
Compared to many e-scooters we see on city streets, Superpedestrian takes their job to provide safe micromobility operations very seriously. Before we dive into the findings of our demo day with LINK, let’s take a look at what sets their scooter apart.
Superpedestrian is a team of safety-obsessed urban mobility specialists that spent 10 years on their onboard Vehicle Intelligence system. That platform continuously monitors internal systems and can prevent 100+ types of electronics failures within nanoseconds. It performs system health checks 1000 times per second, ensuring vehicle safety and prolonging component lifetimes. In fact the average vehicle lifespan is more than 2x the industry average, with LINK e-scooters lasting 5+ years. Unsafe vehicles are immediately taken out-of-service and cannot be ridden. During the demo day, the team tipped a scooter over, and we were shown how on the backend of their platform, Superpedestrian’s team had been notified straight away. At the end of their lifetimes, LINK scooter components are saved as spare parts to repair other vehicles, or responsibly recycled.
Lifespan and carbon neutrality
Superpedestrian designed their LINK vehicles and operations to be sustainable from the get-go, their scooter has an expected lifespan of 2,500 rides which is 2x the industry average. Additionally, the company also became a carbon neutral company, certified by Climate Neutral. Carbon neutrality means having an equal balance between the carbon we emit and the carbon we absorb from the atmosphere. Superpedestrian worked with Climate Neutral; to achieve this goal with a specific focus on the entire carbon footprint from manufacturing to fleet operations. For example, LINK scooters have a remarkable 61 mile (98km) battery range. This allows for less frequent charging, meaning their operations teams spend less time on the road.
The movmi team goes for a ride 🛴
One of the first things the movmi team noticed about LINK e-scooters was their long footdecks. LINK scooters are designed with a wider deck and lower center of gravity to make balancing easier, so the LINK scooter is accessible to more riders. Every member of the movmi team found that they were able to comfortably place both feet on the deck. In fact, the deck allowed us to place our feet multiple ways, depending on what felt right for each rider. We were uncertain at first about the stability of the single kickstand, but during our demo, we found that it is easy to use (same as a bike kickstand) and very sturdy.
LINK scooters were engineered for durability and validated to withstand 10× the bumps and 4× the stress of industry requirements. We believe that a huge part of this is down to the low, long and wide footdeck and the large, girthy scooter frame, which the whole team agreed; created a smooth and stable ride for each of us.
We loved the wide handlebars on the LINK e-scooters. Compared to some scooters we’ve ridden before, the wide handlebar allows for a more natural grip avoiding *T-Rex* arms and for a more stable rider experience. We found that when going for a longer journey, the wide handlebars were more comfortable and created less tension in our arms and shoulders compared to LINK’s e-scooter counterparts that have narrower handlebars. The wider handlebars also allow LINK to provide riding and safety information on the vehicle, which is especially great for first time users.
The light on the handlebars is also an interesting feature. It turns green when you are ready to ride and when you enter a zone that you should not be riding in, it flashes white to alert you. We loved the thought put into this visual feature, however, without some previous education or explanation, it wasn’t immediately clear to any of our team what the different coloured lights actually mean.
Beginning our ride we found that the QR worked super quickly with very little delay. As you can see, the day of our ride was a wet one (a common occurrence in Vancouver), so we were initially worried that the water droplets might cause issues when accessing the scooter via the QR code. For us, it wasn’t a problem, we simply wiped the display and it worked fine, but we did learn that LINK has accounted for scraped or cracked displays. You can simply enter the 6 digit code found on the display directly into the app, which is a great feature for ‘worst-case’ scenarios. One thing we did note on the day, was that the handlebars did not have a speedometer. Obviously with the advances in geofencing technology (which we dive into a bit later) the e-scooters speed is constantly governed and will never reach a speed higher than 25km/h. So, we had to ask ourselves, is a speedometer really necessary if speed is managed for safety in the background?
The movmi team tested the brakes thoroughly on our demo day with LINK, because brakes are the most important safety feature of an electric scooter. We like the dual brakes – many scooter providers only offer one brake which is a real problem in wet conditions, where traction is worse, so scooters with only a single brake are more prone to slipping. The rainy fall day helped us test the brakes in multiple weather conditions, on roads covered with wet leaves and several downhill rides. We were very impressed with the speed of the braking and the fine modulation of control the brakes allowed us. In fact, LINK reports that its scooters stop 37% faster than competing standard vehicles. They do this through three independent braking systems which provide a very reliable and safe braking experience for riders.
Geofences are a set of rules linked to a virtual geographic perimeter. For example, a slow-speed zone in a pedestrian plaza can be defined with a geofence. When effective, geofences dramatically improve rider compliance with slow-speed, no-riding, and no-parking zones.
LINK claims to have the fastest geofence enforcement in the industry. Their e-scooters store city maps and geofence rules directly on the vehicle. The scooter checks its GPS location against the onboard maps and immediately enforces geofences. This innovation allows LINK to bypass the phone-to-cloud enforcement lag to enforce geofences immediately.
We found the LINK app to be highly user-friendly and it allowed us to visually see the geofenced zones within our area. The app also tells you whether or not you are allowed to park in certain areas. You can see from the video and photos that we tested LINK’s geofencing capabilities at Kitsilano beach, a high traffic area with lots of pedestrians – more so in the summer months when the weather is better. At Kitsilano beach there is a path for pedestrians, a bicycle lane, a kid’s playground and directly behind an access road for larger vehicles.
On our ride, we took the scooters for a spin down the bicycle lane first which triggered the first geofence rule and reduced our speed to 15km/hour. We found this to be the perfect speed for a high traffic area like Kitsilano beach. Next we verged off the bicycle lane and into the kid’s playground. This was a designated no-ride zone and we were happy to find that after a few seconds, the indicator light flashed white and then stopped completely. One feature our team really loved was the fact that, while the scooter stopped, the wheels didn’t lock, and it was easy for us to push the scooter out of the no-ride zone. This is not the case with many other shared scooter operations, which results in abandoned scooters in zones where they weren’t supposed to be in the first place.
Overall, we were very impressed with LINK’s geofencing technology. We did find that the geofences depicted by hexagonal cells on the display were hard to read and that perhaps something simpler might make them easier to understand. We also found that moving out of a geofenced zone into a non-geofenced zone could be a little intense and intimidating (especially for a first time rider). However, because geofencing is still a relatively new technology for e-scooters, this is a challenge all scooter companies face. Our team believes that as the technology progresses and develops, engineers and operational teams will focus on gradual speed changes in these transition zones.
We also tested the scooters endurance on some steep hills within the area. Again, we were very impressed with their uphill capabilities and found that it devoured the hill on Arbutus street, one of Vancouver’s steepest inclines.
What movmi’s final verdict?
Overall, we were very impressed with LINK by Superpedestrian e-scooters. We would like to see a bit more attention given to explaining the educational design features of the scooters, especially for new riders. But the scooters were sturdy, offered us an extremely stable ride and had some design elements that we truly loved including the long footdeck, the wide handlebars and the excellent braking system. The geofencing capabilities of LINK’s scooters in combination with the instant notifications of the Vehicle Intelligent system support better rider compliance. It was clear from our demo day, why Superpedestrian spent 10 years perfecting their hardware and Vehicle Intelligence: clearly the company’s ultimate goal is to create safer journeys for all – for riders AND other path users.
This demo day also reaffirmed what movmi’s team has been saying for a while: scooters are a moving around in the physical realm and – since they are not as well regulated as other motor vehicles – it seems prudent to assess them through demo days. The objective is for municipal staff to actual test the product that will be deployed by any winning parties of an RFP. In our opinion, it is the only way to truly understand each provider, assess technologies mentioned in RFPs and mitigate potential future challenges.
Get the facts about the key developments and current micromobility players in Canada here. Learn more about LINK by Superpedestrian e-scooters here.