14 companies apply for PMD-sharing licences

Fourteen firms have applied to operate personal mobility device (PMD) sharing services.

The companies vying for the Land Transport Authority's (LTA's) device-sharing licence - which will allow them to run fleets of devices like e-scooters - include players such as local start-ups Neuron Mobility and Telepod. New contenders include US company Helbiz and Singapore's Omni Sharing, the major shareholder in failed bike-sharing firm oBike.

Applications for the licence closed on Monday. The licence caps the number of devices a company can run, and requires the firms to take steps to curb indiscriminate parking.

Two existing bike-sharing operators - local firm Anywheel and China-based Mobike - have also applied for the licence.

LTA said it will adopt a conservative approach in setting fleet sizes for the operators.

E-scooter sharing services have taken off in the last two years, with Lime and Bird, both from the US, valued at about US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) each.

But National University of Singapore transport lecturer Lee Der Horng wondered if the small-scale operations required by the LTA would be commercially viable.

He also doubted the safety of PMDs for untrained users.

A survey by non-profit magazine Consumer Report this month found that more than 1,500 people had been injured in e-scooter accidents in the US since late 2017.

Meanwhile, Moov Mobility and Ywise Circle have applied to operate shared bikes under the LTA's bicycle-sharing sandbox licence. Mobike, whose bike fleet is capped at 25,000, and Anywheel, which operates 1,000 bikes, have also applied to expand their fleet sizes.