The Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners was recently named the winner in the transportation category in the third annual ID C Smart Cities North America Awards for its connected and autonomous vehicles project. (Courtesy City of Peachtree Corners)
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Public can test ‘self-driving’ scooters at Peachtree Corners Curiosity Lab

Scooters abandoned on the side of the road — or in the middle of a busy sidewalk — may be a thing of the past thanks to new technology being tested by the public in Peachtree Corners.

Teleoperated scooters, developed by technology companies Go X and Tortoise, are available for the public to try at Curiosity Lab, an innovation hub focused on autonomous vehicles and other new transportation technology. Anyone can ride the scooters along the 1.5 mile test track, and remote operators will drive the scooters back to their designated parking spots without a rider. The scooters are also capable of meeting a rider at a starting point using the same technology.

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The scooters have been referred to by the city as “self-driving” but a key difference is that instead of using artificial intelligence like autonomous cars, a person is directing the scooter’s movement remotely.

The fleet of 100 scooters will be sanitized after each use and have a sticker put on them verifying that they’ve been cleaned, said Judy Putnam, spokeswoman for Peachtree Corners.

The scooters can only be ridden at Technology Park Atlanta, within the boundaries of Ga. 141, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Spalding Drive. Scooters outside that area will slow to 2 miles per hour, slower than a moderately-paced walk. The city hopes to expand the boundaries to include Peachtree Corners Town Center in the future, Putnam said.

Those who wish to ride the scooters can do so between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Riders must download the Go X Apollo app and pay $1 to unlock a scooter to ride. After that, it’s 25 cents per minute or $29.99 for a whole day, Putnam said.

The new technology aims to keep scooters out of the paths of cars, pedestrians and cyclists by making it possible for remote operators to return rented machines to their parking area after use. While scooters from companies like Bird and Uber have all but disappeared due to the coronavirus pandemic, the technology could be used once they return to keep them from being a nuisance and hazard between rides, a Go X press release said.

The pilot program will allow Go X and Tortoise to gather data about the scooters’ operation and make any tweaks needed before scaling up further.

The scooters will be available to ride for at least six months at Curiosity Lab, which is within Technology Park Atlanta and near Peachtree Corners City Hall. This is the second public launch at the facility. The first was Olli, a self-driving shuttle created by Arizona-based Local Motors; that was debuted at Curiosity Lab’s 2019 grand opening.

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