City re-tests new geofence boundaries after e-scooter issues

Published: Jul. 25, 2019 at 5:30 PM EDT
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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News

July 25, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Lime scooters are back in operation in Tallahassee; the company pulled its scooters off the market last week after complaints from FSU regarding issues with the geofence.

Lime was not the only company struggling with the technical troubles of the invisible barrier; all companies had scooters on the FSU campus at some point last week.

On Thursday, the Mayor of Atlanta issued an executive order prohibiting any new permits for e-scooters; Keisha Bottoms, a FAMU alum, made the choice after two fatal accidents in the city.

The major e-scooter issue in Tallahassee involves the geofences not keeping the scooters off campuses.

Last week, the City of Tallahassee was made aware of the issue.

"We had asked e-scooter companies to geo-fence off some of the areas and we just found out that some of the technology wasn't working quite right, so we suggested that they check on it and that they fix it," said Julie Christensen.

Lime's scooters were out of commission for almost a week; smartphone apps for the other scooter companies showed some scooters still on campus as late as this morning.

"Geo fencing is using GPS to put a boundary and quantify a location for marketing or policing purposes," said Aegis Business Technologies CEO Blake Dowling.

In the past, geo-fencing has been used for marketing in smartphone apps.

"Getting people targeting messages when they're visiting certain spaces. Because you don't want to see marketing messages that are not relevant," said Dowling.

Rather than marketing, the scooter companies are using the invisible barrier created by the geofence to slow down and ultimately stop scooters at campus borders.

"They have geo-fenced these campuses, and in theory, the scooters cannot cross these boundaries," said Dowling.

The City of Tallahassee is currently testing new boundaries that extend slightly beyond the universities and into parts of College Town.

When asked what would happen if the new geofence still is not effective, the City did not yet have an answer.

"I couldn't say exactly how we would react at this time," said Christensen.

In addition to geofencing on collegiate campuses, Dowling suggested a possible future need for geofencing at all schools. He highlighted high schools in particular, with the possibility of inexperienced drivers exposed to other kinds of scooter traffic.