Drivers can borrow cars for a few hours at a time — or a day — through services like Zipcar. But car shares don’t solve all transportation challenges: Cars are limited to busy roads, after all.
If someone wanted to make a two-mile journey in San Antonio, Texas, to see the Final Four at The Alamodome, for example, the trip would be “an exercise in 25 to 35 minutes by car,” Blue Duck Scooters Co-Founder Eric Bell told PYMNTS in an interview.
But that doesn’t have to be the case for travelers on scooters. As a result, Bell and his team modified scooters to help move people through busy cities.
“We decided that we have the capabilities to build the hardware … and software that would connect people in urban centers,” Bell said.
With issues such as parking and congestion, Bell hopes his company can allow people to move more efficiently — and less expensively. And the scooters? “They happen to be a lot of fun too,” Bell said.
Blue Duck operates on an innovative model: Consumers find the scooters through a mobile app. When consumers reaches their destination, they don’t have to lock up their scooter.
That system is possible because Blue Duck’s scooters come equipped with GPS location beacons. And, yes, Blue Duck employs a kill switch too.
However, that means Blue Duck Scooters goes around the city and collect the scooters at the end of the night, redistributing them in the morning.
Blue Duck’s technology comes from a similar industry — bike shares, which are also turning to dockless services to avoid relying on stationary docking and payment hardware. These services leverage mobile payments, GPS or Bluetooth tracking and QR code or other mobile-based authentication to allow riders to view available bikes nearest them and reserve one on their phones.
Similar to Blue Duck’s scooters, bike share riders reserve and unlock bikes with a code and then ride and lock them up again when they’re done, leaving the bike for someone else nearby.
Such services have taken off in places such as China, where nearly 30 dockless bike share companies have popped up to compete in the country’s latest sharing economy craze, according to Forbes. The services are increasingly popular among consumers and investors alike.
Blue Duck hopes to target large public universities in the South. That’s because young people are early adopters of technology, Bell said, and the scooter technology is conducive to the weather. And public places — such as universities — tend to face challenges around parking and traffic, Bell said.
Currently, Blue Duck plans to offer its scooters for a fixed fee to unlock it and then a per-minute fee for use. While the scooters have a range of about 20 miles, “barring extenuating circumstances, people are using them to move a mile to a mile and half,” Bell said.
In the future, the company is looking into programs related to subscriptions. Ridesharing companies such as Lyft, for example, are experimenting with commuter subscription packages.
Citing comments Lyft Chief Executive Logan Green made at a press event earlier this year, The Verge reported Lyft could take a page from Netflix and Spotify by bringing a subscription-based model to the transportation market. While terms of the subscription model may vary, the service would be geared toward riders that spend at least $450 a month on rides.
During the Lyft company event, The Verge quoted Green as saying: “We are going to move the entire industry from one based on ownership to one based on subscription.”
The Road Ahead
To get the word out about the service, Blue Duck Scooters has turned to guerilla marketing in San Antonio. For the Final Four, it provided scooters to the event’s staff — along with the media.
The idea is that social media could spread the word about Blue Duck, and the company could foster a grassroots movement for scooters through that avenue.
Besides their ability to move people through busy cities, scooters inherently have another advantage: They’re easy for consumers to use.
Bell believes scooters are what’s next for companies in the transportation market.
“This is the future of the transportation sharing economy,” he said.