Uber e-bikes could drive, park, and charge themselves

JUMP e-bike
Credit: JUMP

It appears Uber is doubling down even harder on autonomous transport, with a new 'micromobility' department to bring self-driving technology to electric scooters and bikes.

Uber has offered electric bike rentals though its app for several months now via the Jump bike-sharing service. The e-bikes have been rolled out across various American cities - Washington, Phoenix, Los Angeles, to name but a few - though only Berlin in Europe so far.

According to the below tweet from Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics, Uber announced the micromobility program at a robotics event over the weekend, and is currently hiring roles to work on Jump's robotics and sensor technologies.

There are currently no listings for these roles on the Jump website, but this could swiftly change.

An autonomous future

The ride-hailing app has made no secret of its plans for self-driving vehicles - cars that can navigate without human interference - though its autonomous car program suffered a major setback when it led to the death of a pedestrian in Arizona in early 2018.

Uber bought the bike-rental startup Jump around the same time, adding even more ways to hitch a ride through the Uber app.

The global rollout of bike rental services, however, has seen cities plagued by abandoned vehicles, as riders find it easier to ditch them by the kerbside - or in an actual ditch - than make sure they're taken to a designated parking or charging place.

Scooters would presumably pose less of a threat to passersby, and there's an argument for e-bikes that can navigate for themselves. 

Developing 'micromobility' so that these bikes and scooters can, say, park themselves without a rider, head to pick-up locations, and even ferry users from one place to the next autonomously, would be big business. But the botched rollout of these services we've seen so far - and Uber's safety record - doesn't give us much hope.

Via TechCrunch