Ford’s Trans-Am Micromobility Fund Unveiled

Ford is launching a Trans-Atlantic fund to study the possibilities of expanding micromobility by partnering with academics in the UK and US.

Launched through its e-scooter company, Spin, the £100,000 Micromobility Research Fund will support experts in the international mobility ecosystem over the coming year. They will study various safety aspects of e-scooter use as well as rider travel behavior and the challenges and opportunities of the integration of e-scooters within a city’s road systems and existing public transport networks.

Preparation for the first piece of research is under way in Milton Keynes and could be extended to other cities, including London, once the e-scooter trial kicks off in the capital. The study will explore factors that influence road-user safety seeking answers to questions such as:

  • Where do e-scooter users ride most often (cycle lane, roadway, pavement) and why?
  • How often do safety incidents occur, and what are common factors?
  • What factors or conditions (i.e. cycling infrastructure, weather, traffic volume, etc…) impact real or perceived safety of e-scooters for users and for non-users?

The study will be informed by a diverse set of data sources including qualitative and quantitative consumer survey data and on-street AI and IoT sensor data of e-scooter interactions with pedestrians, cyclists and cars captured by Vivacity Lab’s sensors that are installed in the city. The researchers will have access to anonymized e-scooter movement data (GPS) as well.

Sensors employ machine learning algorithms to detect near-miss incidents and are able to analyze movement patterns of vulnerable road-users such as cyclists and pedestrians, as well as non-connected vehicles. Such data will be invaluable to assess why near-misses may happen and what could be possibly done to minimize them. All data shared by the sensors is anonymized with video feeds discarded at source, enabling safer roads without intruding on privacy.

The research may include outputs such as a mapping of “safe routes” based on riding patterns and user feedback, and recommendations on how local authorities and operators could encourage riders towards a safer use of e-scooters. Recommendations may also include infrastructure improvements or other policy changes to enhance roadway safety for all users.

Josh Johnson, public policy manager at Spin, said: “The willingness to share independent research and learnings about the adoption of e-scooters with key stakeholders has become less of a priority for operators and this needs to change. Spin is committed to improving and advancing micromobility policy frameworks globally in the markets we operate in. These studies will give everyone fresh and actionable insights. We look forward to sharing best practices with stakeholders in the UK and beyond around how to best integrate e-scooters into local transport networks while maximizing safety of all road users and provide communities with a green, fun and socially-distanced way to travel.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_


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