The Smart City: The Rise of Dockless E-Scooters

Much less than a “thing” or a “place,” a Smart City is the concept of integrating technology into the public realm and built environment. The deployment of sensors or other data-generating tools, and the collection, monitoring, processing of that data, will increasingly impact cities across multiple domains, from transportation, housing, and water to health and education. This blog series explores recent policy developments in the march towards smarter cities, with a special focus on transportation and information and communication technology (ICT).

The deployment of dockless transportation services across U.S. cities, from bikes to e-scooters, has elicited widespread excitement from early adopters, transportation wonks, and city governments alike. Each in their own way see dockless services as a promising solution to the nagging problems of congestion, vehicle emissions, and limited transportation options in low-income neighborhoods.

Yet dockless e-scooters, in particular, have also been met with considerable public and political opposition. E-scooters took advantage of a gap in the market, aided by the lack of regulatory barriers to dockless technologies. Cities, provider companies, and the public are now struggling to achieve an acceptable balance between an e-scooter Wild West and regulations that would threaten their very existence. The path forward lies in collaboration among all interested parties. As with any new technology being deployed in the public realm, robust public engagement and public-private cooperation is essential to address concerns and find an optimal solution. There is evidence that the policy process is moving in this direction, but not without growing pains.

Read the rest at the Niskanen Center.