Superpedestrian, a maker of smart scooters, has raised some $60 million from investors to expand its fleet of vehicles that have an intelligence system alerting for safety hazards.
Investors in the firm include the Citi Impact Fund, Jerusalem-based OurCrowd, and private equity firm Winthrop Square Capital, the US firm founded by Israel-born CEO Assaf Biderman, said in a statement.
Biderman, who has a background in physics, left for Boston 19 years ago and worked for 13 years in a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where researchers use machine learning and robotics in a bid to solve city problems.
Superpedestrian, founded in 2013, was spun out of MIT, and spent eight years and $75 million to patent more than 30 electric vehicle technologies that have resulted in what the firm says is the industry’s “first and only” e-scooter, the LINK.
Its “onboard intelligence” allows the scooters to perform autonomous maintenance and safety verification before every ride. Each vehicle has five computers that monitor every component thousands of times per second, instantly self-repairing the electronic systems. Whereas other scooter providers spend days transporting vehicles in need of repair to warehouses for diagnostics and maintenance, Superpedestrian can resolve issues autonomously in the field, the statement said.
The new funding will help the company expand the deployment of its scooters, Biderman said in a phone interview.
Thousands of LINK scooters are currently deployed in 12 cities including Seattle; Oakland, California; Columbus, Ohio; Rome, Italy; and Madrid, Spain. Superpedestrian is looking to expand to an additional 25 cities, including New York City.
The onboard intelligent system scans the vehicles every 30 minutes for potential defects, like water penetration, which could damage the electrical circuits of the scooter, too-high battery temperatures, and cobblestone-caused short circuits. When the vehicle is in use, the system scans the scooter constantly for problems, Biderman said.
“There are hundreds of things that could go wrong with normal use,” Biderman said.
The systems on the scooters can detect and fix malfunctions without the rider even noticing, he said. If something is very wrong the vehicle halts and opens its own service ticket, which operators then get alerted to. The self-protection ability of the scooter is some 55%, Biderman said.
LINK’s so-called A.I. Mechanic has performed 84,500 autonomous repairs to date, the statement said.
Because the brains of the scooter are on the vehicle, they can also hold maps with city rules, which can halt a rider from entering a one way street against traffic, or a no-scooter area.
Biderman demonstrated a map of Seattle, where LINK scooters had been halted at the outside perimeter of a no-scooter access area.
“Superpedestrian’s LINK fleet aims for the double bottom line we look for through the Citi Impact Fund, benefitting both communities and investors. They’ve taken time to get the technology right, the growth has been sustainable and their product is profitable,” said Ed Skyler, Citi’s executive vice president for Global Public Affairs, in the statement. “As the density of cities increase, there is huge demand for safe, sustainable transportation options.”
OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved said Superpedestrian’s platform is “safer and smarter” than any competitor’s.