By Alex Keating, Director of Partnership and Public Policy, Veo
At the end of 2020, Veo was proud to submit our application to operate shared electric scooter service in the City of New York. Should we be selected to participate in the pilot, we will bring NYC a diverse fleet of purpose-built standing and seated e-scooters featuring industry-leading safety features such as integrated turn signals, as well as swappable batteries.
As a New Yorker myself I know the city presents uniquely exciting opportunities and challenges for micromobility. With the highest population density and the lowest rate of vehicle ownership of any city in the United States, NYC residents are ideally positioned to benefit from electric scooters. However, the benefits only pan out if the services are launched in a way that complements public transit (the backbone of NYC’s transportation network), presents a viable first- and last-mile travel option (New Yorkers make more short trips than most), and don’t cause clutter on already densely populated streets and sidewalks (I’m walking/biking/driving here!).
The current pandemic conditions accentuate the importance of introducing new travel options that are personal and sustainable, especially in neighborhoods that remain beyond Citi Bike’s service area. Luckily, Veo has built our business since 2017 through meaningful partnerships that are tailored to each city’s unique context and need — we have never launched a market without a permit or dumped scooters on city streets without notice.
As a former NYC Department of Transportation employee for over five years, I’m particularly excited to see this type of scooter company come to New York City — one that is responsible, safe, and has demonstrated that it can operate a positive, profitable business that respects the cities and communities in which it operates. I want to highlight three unique characteristics of the service we are proposing to offer in New York and share why I think they’re important for the city:
Get the basics right: Veo is independently and truly profitable, not Venture Capital-backed, and looking to leverage the City’s name for our next round of fundraising. Link to Candice’s post. Responsible growth has allowed us to get the basics right before scaling: This means that we live up to the promises we make, whether that be on equity, parking, and rebalancing responsiveness, or anything else. We have ensured that our operations can last and you can count on us for more than just headline-grabbing announcements or smoke and mirrors aimed solely at winning a permit. Veo is developing and piloting AI and video-based programming like many other operators. However, more straightforward solutions can make a big difference from day one. Making sure each scooter is equipped with lock-to technology (an integrated cable lock that allows riders to end a trip by locking to a bike rack when outside a designated parking area), is an example of a simple investment that mitigates the issue of scooters falling over and blocking sidewalks and pedestrian ramps. Getting the basics right means offering a service that is orderly, safe, and financially viable from day one.
Deploy more than one device type to safely meet the diverse travel needs of New Yorkers: We were co-founded by a bike engineer — the nuances of vehicle design and safety have always been crucial to us. We responded to data and reports showing the leading causes of scooter crashes by designing a scooter with two independent braking systems; front and rear suspension that makes for a safer, smoother ride; and the first integrated turn signals on the market. These features allow riders to more confidently keep their eyes on the conditions around them, and two hands on the handlebars, rather than staring at the pavement hoping to avoid every little pothole. A mixed fleet will offer a more dynamic, accessible, and comprehensive service to New Yorkers: Veo plans to offer our Cosmo seated E-scooter in addition to our Stand-up Astro E-scooter because a seated ride is more accessible and comfortable for many, especially those taking longer trips. We are also committed to ADA compliance and will make available upon request an electric-powered attachment that allows private non-motorized wheelchairs to operate as motorized devices.
Reduce Traffic and Environmental Impacts from Operations with Swappable Battery: We believe it is vital that New York City selects operators who have figured out swappable battery technology. It is not the most technologically simple solution, but it is the best one. Without swappable batteries, operators use large, gas-guzzling vans to haul all their devices off the streets just to recharge them. Our durable, waterproof swappable batteries enable us to use zero-emission cargo bikes or seated scooters for recharging trips in dense urban environments. This means that our service won’t contribute to congestion or block bike lanes nearly as much as services with old-fashioned, built-in batteries. NYC has enough problems with TNCs, cabs, and ever-increasing numbers of delivery trucks double-parking in bike lanes and taking up parking — swappable batteries are a simple solution to keep scooters from being part of that problem.
With this pilot, NYC has a fantastic opportunity to lead the nation in assessing and monitoring traffic impacts of micromobility by collecting the data on the fleet operations vehicles across any/all operators they permit and simply comparing the Vehicle Miles Traveled in the city. Veo believes in the swappable battery advantage and will be the first to volunteer our data and we would gladly participate in this analysis if selected.
New York City is a competitive and fast-paced environment — and the scooter market will be no exception. Our hard-won track record of profitability sets us apart from our many competitors, and we’re excited to bring our vehicles and service to the boroughs of NYC in 2021 and become a long-term partner in transportation. We don’t want to see NYC become more reliant on cars or lose transportation options after such a challenging 2020 — we want the City to reopen and flourish more than ever before. If micromobility and our service can play even a small role in NYC’s recovery in 2021 and beyond, it will be a great honor.