They lay strewn across sidewalks but Toyota sees e-scooters as a roadmap to vehicle safety

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

Toyota is working with a college in Indiana to study e-scooter interactions with vehicles.

The Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) is currently in the midst of a multi-year study aimed at using real-world e-scooter riding data to better understand e-scooter and vehicle interactions. Rini Sherony, a Senior Principal Engineer at CSRC, is leading the effort, which includes partnerships with universities, hospitals, research institutions, and federal agencies.

Toyota, as a company, is focused on a variety of mobility solutions from alternative fuel technology to fresh transport solutions to improving safety. Sherony sees e-scooters as a way to better understand the world of mobility in current times and use that gleaned knowledge to improve safety technology for the future.

e-scooter Toyota LIDAR

Toyota is using LiDAR to capture interactions between scooters and cars on the road.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

She became interested in the possibility of studying e-scooters after visiting her daughter at the University of Michigan. “Walking around campus, I saw many students riding e-scooters without much concern for the other vehicles around them and not following any rules regarding direction or speed. Around the same time, data from many hospital ERs were also reporting an uptick of e-scooter related incidents.”

The laissez faire attitude of many e-scooter operators is not news to many inside and outside the transportation community. Cities are grappling with how to regulate their use while balancing the need for alternative transportation solutions for their residents. Plus, there’s the fun factor.

According to Sherony, there are currently more than 85,000 such scooters in service throughout the U.S., but in 2018, there were approximately 14,600 e-scooter accidents, up from just 4,500 four years earlier.

“I thought it would be fascinating to take a more in-depth look at how e-scooters interact with vehicles, with the thought that a deeper understanding of those interactions could help to develop safety systems in vehicles that might mitigate or avoid crashes with e-scooters,” she shared.

To take that in-depth look, CSRC is partnering with the School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). The collaborative effort involves collecting data from fully instrumented e-scooters and vehicles using LiDAR and front- and rearview cameras.

The study efforts may be the key to success to move the scooters move from burdensome transportation solution and recreation activity to a true mobility solution. “The ultimate goal is to use this research to potentially develop or modify advanced safety features that will help to prevent and/or mitigate crashes with e-scooters in the future,” said Sherony.

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