17 November, 2020
Safety improvement is one major focus for all the shared micromobility stakeholders. As local authorities are willing to ensure riders’ safety, operators are investing and looking for innovative features to check the “safety” box and win more new markets.
Improving helmet usage is one key development for shared e-scooter operators who are trying to find a good balance between extra costs on the hardware and operations, and getting the key differentiator. But how can they get there?
Incentives to wear a helmet
The cheapest and easiest-to-implement option to convince riders to wear a helmet is to provide educative content, either through the subscription or rental process, or push notifications. Most operators have already upgraded their apps this way.
The next step is to allow helmet detection. Before starting its ride, the user is taking a selfie, that is processed by an image recognition algorithm, to confirm if he is wearing a helmet or not. US operators Veo and Bird unveiled their solutions in September and November 2019 respectively. When riders confirm wearing a helmet, they can get free unlock or other rewards. I did not hear of any live implementation yet…
The main barrier to helmet usage is… having a helmet. Would it be for occasional or regular riders, carrying a helmet all day long in case of a potential ride is highly constraining. The development of bike-share in the 2010’s led helmet suppliers to develop foldable helmets, with the ultimate goal of getting the more compact product. Closca (who launched a specific model in collaboration with Dott), Overade (which helmets are used by Tier) are among the most common. Other products, some made of paper such as the EcoHelmet, or the Testa model, might have more difficulties to be popularised due to their… singular design.
A recent product called Newton-Rider put foldable helmets back in the spotlight. The Danish company designed a thin, semi-soft, and foldable helmet using non-newtonian materials. It also has a built-in RFID chip that enables identification. Through a first-of-its-kind partnership with Voi, shared e-scooter riders now have access to rewards for wearing this helmet when scanning the chip before starting a ride.
The first versions of shared helmets appeared in states or countries where the mandatory helmet laws were a major barrier to the development of bike-share services. In Vancouver, Canada, for example, the operator had to offer systematic access to a helmet with the bike, and used a classic bowl helmet, secured thanks to Smoove’s cable lock (which is integrated into the handlebar). But, of course, there is no control of the presence of the helmet at the end of each ride.
Some scooter operators did not bother with the helmet volume and worked on its integration. Vancouver’s basic solution may have been an inspiration to Neuron who developed its own helmet securisation solution…Wheels unveiled its sitting-scooter with an integrated helmet in December 2019. Axel Lindner, GM for EMEA confirms that if “it has only been trialed in some cities [since then], we are launching at large scale (20% of the fleet) in Seattle today