Bird debuts cutting edge smart sidewalk protection

Bird has announced the first-of-its-kind “smart sidewalk” protection technology – a sensor fusion solution – designed and developed in partnership with u-blox.

Smart Sidewalk Protection, which is integrated into Bird’s vehicles, is designed to prevent micromobility devices from being used on sidewalks and footpaths.

As more and more cities look to integrate shared micromobility into the climate action plans that focus on reduced carbon emissions in their communities, technology that prevents sidewalk riding has become increasingly important. Through its collaboration with u-blox, Bird co-developed a robust, integrated sensor fusion system that tracks location with centimetre-level precision.

By combining u-blox’s ZED-F9R high precision dead reckoning module with centimetre-level sidewalk mapping and Bird’s suite of onboard vehicle sensors, the integrated system effectively and efficiently detects and prevents sidewalk or footpath riding in real-time. For example, as opposed to traditional GPS with cloud-based maps that can take more than 15 seconds to respond, Bird’s new smart sidewalk protection solution can safely bring a vehicle that has entered onto a sidewalk to a safe stop while allowing the rider to walk the vehicle back to the roadway or bike lane.

“Everything we build at Bird is centred around safety and scalability, sidewalk riding detection is no exception,” said Scott Rushforth, chief vehicle officer at Bird. “After three years of building, testing and piloting a range of technologies including but not limited to onboard cameras, GPS tracking, ultra-wideband and beacons, we found that each was insufficient with regard to accuracy, precision, immediacy or scalability. Our testing led us to a collaboration with u-blox which resulted in the development of our end-to-end sensor fusion solution that meets our criteria.”

Alex Ngi, product manager positioning at u-blox, added: “We are very excited about this collaboration between u-blox and Bird. Our centimetre-level precise GNSS positioning technology will now be implemented in the expanding micromobility industry, strengthening our contribution to a safer and more ecological world.”

Bird’s sidewalk detection technology is currently being piloted in Milwaukee and San Diego and is expected to be piloted in Madrid in early 2022.

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