Seven operators set to apply for PMD-sharing licence here
Seven firms applying for LTA licence confident they won't face problems that plagued bike-sharing
Two years of bicycle-sharing in Singapore have been plagued with issues ranging from vandalism to indiscriminate parking to operators going bust.
In recent years, personal mobility devices (PMDs), in particular e-scooters, have also sparked controversy, with reckless riders infringing on roads or causing accidents on footpaths. Some devices also caught fire while being charged.
But this has not deterred firms seeking a piece of the PMD-sharing pie in the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) latest round of licence applications.
Mr Zachary Wang, co-founder of Singapore start-up Neuron Mobility, told The New Paper: "We are optimistic about PMD-sharing. I think there is a real need for it."
His sentiment was echoed by six other firms, which told TNP they would also be applying for a sandbox licence to operate public PMD-sharing services.
- US-based Lime, valued at US$1.1 billion (S$1.49 billion), operating in more than 125 markets worldwide;
- Ride-hailing firm Grab, which ditched its sandbox bicycle-sharing licence last month to focus on PMD-sharing;
- Singapore-based Beam, which raised US$6.4 million last year; and
- Three other homegrown players - Telepod, Anywheel and Scootbee.
The current licence application cycle, which closes on Feb 11, is the first open to PMD-sharing firms, which can apply for only a sandbox licence.
This limits each operator's fleet size to at least 200 devices and not more than 500. The results will be announced in the second quarter of this year.
Beam's vice-president of corporate affairs, Mr Christopher Hilton, said the sandbox licence's small fleet allows operators to get their feet wet and gives them an even footing.
So instead of trying to compete on market share, operators need to prove they have the operational capability to succeed.
Anywheel's strategy manager, Mr Seet Rui Jie, said he believes bike-sharing firm oBike's departure has made the authorities more cautious.
Issues such as refunds of users' deposits also shook the confidence in smaller firms such as Anywheel, which will be using a different fee model, he added.
Most of the other operators said they also have no plans to collect deposits from users.
They feel PMD-sharing is the solution to the demand for short-distance trips and the gap in first- and last-mile travel that has yet to be plugged.
They said e-scooter technology gives them greater control compared to the smart locks installed on shared bicycles.
Mr Wang said Neuron can switch its PMDs on or off in real time, adding: "In e-scooter sharing, the dynamic changes because of the technology."
Scootbee said it has developed a self-driving e-scooter that can go to its users on demand and park itself.
Firms such as Neuron and Lime are looking at crowd-sourcing as a solution to indiscriminate parking by offering incentives to users to return stray e-scooters to designated parking spots.
Mr Hilton said the need to interact with PMDs daily would eliminate such issues as indiscriminate parking and under-use that plagued bike-sharing.
Grab's spokesman said it had learnt from its bike-sharing experience that it needed full control over the platform, product and logistics to ensure a high level of safety and quality.
Having government-regulated PMD fleet operators also mitigates bad behaviour, said Mr Wang, when asked about hit-and-run accidents.
"At any given time, I will know where the scooter is, how fast it is travelling and who is using it," he said.
"I would even argue that PMD-sharing is a better form of mobility solution than what that we currently have, because it brings more accountability."
Mr Hilton, who was previously with bike-sharing firm ofo, said the negativity surrounding shared mobility and PMD use here are growing pains associated with any new transportation mode.
Lime Singapore's general manager, Mr Ashwin Purushottam, said efforts by the Government and bike-sharing operators have raised awareness on the responsible use of mobility devices. Beyond education campaigns,the onus is still on users to ride responsibly, he added.
Said Mr Hilton: "There is always going to be some bad apples that make it challenging for the rest who want to use PMDs properly."