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Remote-controlled riderless scooters finally set to hit Boise streets

After over a year of delays, a first-of-its-kind test of riderless e-scooter technology will hit the streets of Boise. 

As BoiseDev first reported last year, scooter company Spin approached the City of Boise about using the city to pilot 300 new remotely operated scooters in downtown Boise. Mayor McLean told Boise City Council on Tuesday afternoon there were delays with implementing the pilot program due to the pandemic, but the city is now ready to pass an ordinance allowing the program to launch. 

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Two other cities have tested mockups of the technology, but Spin says Boise would be the first to host the specially built scooters built with three wheels and cameras to help them park themselves by remote control and even drive themselves to a waiting customer. Bre Brush, McLean’s transportation advisor, told the council the goal of the program is to help clear up the issue of discarded scooters littering the sidewalks. 

“The scooter has three wheels inters of two, a camera with 210-degree views in the front and back for repositioning, and the intent for why they were created was to solve issues cities like us have been having with them blocking sidewalks, business entrances and ramps,” Brush said. “The devices also have multiple additional sensors and a new braking system.”

An ordinance allowing the pilot to move ahead will soon come up for Boise City Council to approve. The code change allows e-scooters with three wheels in city limits, requires they be under control at all times by a member of the Spin staff and defines the pilot program as no more than 180 days. 

How will it work?

Brush said Spin will deploy the special scooters in the immediate downtown area where the City of Boise has the most code compliance staff members to keep an eye on the devices and the Spin staff to ensure they are being operated safely during the test. Although the riderless scooters can be ridden anywhere, they must be returned to the blocks between State Street, Fort Street, Myrtle Street and 12th Street once the ride is complete and at the beginning of every day. 

Other Spin scooters will be located outside of downtown Boise so the area is not saturated with the company’s vehicles and the test scooters will not contribute to the city’s “dynamic cap” on the number of devices allowed on the streets at any given time. 

The six-month pilot study will consist of several phases. Brush said it will begin with “intense restrictions” on where the scooters can be remotely operated and will rely heavily on Spin staff to physically move the devices around the city. During the first few weeks of the test, if a scooter crosses an intersection a Spin staff member must walk behind it. 

The scooters will only be allowed to travel up to 5 miles per hour while behind remotely operated. 

As the test progresses, the scooters will be allowed to travel a little further from Spin staff while they are remotely operated. Spin and City of Boise staff will meet one week before the end of each phase of the pilot to discuss the progress and the city will approve Spin moving to the next stage in the test. There will also be restrictions on what time a day the scooters may cross an intersection so they do not disrupt rush hour traffic. 

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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