AI scooters to roll out across DCU’s Dublin campuses

In a world-first, a fleet of artificially intelligent e-scooters with computer vision will be rolled out to Dublin City University staff and campus companies.

Electric scooters equipped with computer vision technology made by Dublin company Luna Systems will soon appear on DCU’s campuses across Dublin.

Luna, along with TIER, DCU and the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, are to collaborate on a academic-industry computer vision research partnership.

“This research project will help shape the future regarding the safety and municipal value of electric scooters, not just in Dublin and Ireland, but globally”

TIER E-scooters will be equipped with Luna’s Computer Vision technology for the purposes of pedestrian avoidance and lane detection, with the vision data gathered from trips being analysed and used by researchers to develop new ‘smart city’ use cases and applications for Luna’s AI models and algorithms.

Smart Dublin is taking shape

Two men in a Dublin park.

Andrew Fleury and Ronan Furlong from Luna

DCU, which is a district of Smart Dublin, and TIER will also assess how e-scooters can replace other modes of transport across the University community of 18,000 students and almost 2,000 staff.

The project will involve all scooter trips beginning and ending on the various DCU campuses, and will run for a period of six months.

“This research project will help shape the future regarding the safety and municipal value of electric scooters, not just in Dublin and Ireland, but globally,” explained Andrew Fleury, co-founder and CEO of Luna.

“The project will also enable the further development of Dublin as a ‘smart city’ and strengthen Luna’s position as a key technology provider in the governance and control of shared electric scooter schemes into the future.” 

As well as being a world first academic-industry research project focused on computer vision in scooters, the pilot will also be Ireland’s first major structured e-scooter trial. The purpose of the research project is to simultaneously improve e-scooter safety and to explore the Smart City possibilities associated with computer vision equipped micromobility vehicles. 

The vision data generated by the fleet will be analysed by DCU-based Insight researchers, with a view to identifying smart city use cases and applications of value to local authorities, in line with the mission of Smart Dublin. It is envisaged that some of the use cases that could be prototyped during the pilot, include traffic congestion alerts, road condition monitoring, street infrastructure mapping, kerbside management applications, as well as heat mapping of footpath riding incidents as an indicator of problematic junctions or inadequate cycling infrastructure.

“The confluence of e-mobility, smart cities, computer vision, AI and data analytics is a key area of interest to Insight researchers in DCU,” said Prof Noel O’Connor, CEO of Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics.

“The ‘Smart DCU’ platform in partnership with Smart Dublin, has created the perfect test bed where industry and academia can combine to come up with the solutions that will help enhance the future of safe micromobility. This in turn will drive its adoption globally, supporting societies shared climate goals.”

Separately TIER and DCU will monitor the modal shift pattern from cars to scooters across DCU users, with a focus on reducing the University’s transport-related emissions.

“This is an exciting opportunity for detailed research on smart city applications of scooters as well as modal shift, as we work with the University to reduce its carbon footprint and offer a more sustainable first and last mile public transport solution. We hope to apply all project learnings to future TIER operations in Ireland.”

“This research is a great example of the calibre of ground-breaking innovations that are happening across DCU,” Dr Declan Raftery, chief operating offier of DCU said.

“Luna was founded in our Alpha Innovation Campus and we’re delighted to pilot the technology across our campuses. We are genuinely curious to understand how e-scooters can help drive modal shift across our community of 18,000 students and almost 2,000 staff, and we want to work with Dublin and Ireland stakeholders to disseminate all useful learnings from the pilot, as we prepare for a return to campus and a wider return to work in a post-Covid world.”

TIER’s business model allows users to swap depleted e-scooter batteries – in return for free travel – at charging stations hosted in local retail outlets. Pilot data from the Energy Network in Finland reveals the average convenience store enjoys an average of €18,000 additional income as a result of TIER users entering to switch batteries.

“This is such an important research pilot project for TIER in Ireland and we look forward to mobilising the DCU fleet of e-scooters,” said Fred Jones, TIER general manager for Northern Europe.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 15 April 2021

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