The e-scooter epidemic is overrunning European cities and the new road users are not integrating seamlessly. One of the things that make pedestrians angry is the wild parking on sidewalks. The Austrian startup Rollmi has launched an app designed to bring more order to the e-scooter rental market.

City governments see e-scooter rental as an environmentally friendly solution to the traffic problem. The handy and manoeuvrable vehicles get through the congested inner cities quickly. However, given the term ‘the final stretch’, they are intended above all to close the gaps in the public transport system and thereby encourage motorists to make the switch. In most cases, it is private operators who offer the rental service.

Registered users rent the nearest e-scooter via an app and park right at their destination. As a result, the vehicles are often carelessly thrown in front of underground exits or house entrances and present a stumbling block for pedestrians. It is up to the rental companies to collect and recharge the scooters during the night and make them available at suitable locations again in the morning to commuters and to those in a hurry.

Cooperation with the municipal government

The Austrian start-up Rollmi is a new player on this market and wants to put an end to illegal parking. A corresponding concept was developed in cooperation with the Dornbirn municipal government. This student and commercial city, with its 40,000 inhabitants, approached the start-up. The company is already operating a transport service and therefore had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in e-scooter rental within a manageable framework. At the same time, the concept is scalable and will soon be extended to include other cities. Initially, the plan is only intended for cities where there are currently no other rental companies as yet.

Incentives via bonuses

Last Friday the project started out with twenty scooters. Both borrowing and parking take place in designated areas. The users are relatively free when it comes to parking the E-scooter, albeit they have to stick to the parking spaces provided in the designated zones. There are several stations as well. Users who park the e-scooters at any of these stations receive a discount of five percent off the fare. Another measure designed to encourage users to keep things organized is the requirement to document the correct parking of the e-scooter with a photo. “That helps us collect them and the e-scooters don’t just stand around idly,” CEO and COO Matthias Kalb explains.

Rental is handled via an app and the concept is presented via a city map and a colour-coding system: Blue marks the entire area, orange the stations, green the parking zones and red signifies no driving or parking.

Not a toy

An initial study of accidents involving rental scooters in the USA showed that users tend to misjudge the scooter, which looks like a toy. Two-thirds of the accident victims are novice drivers. The head is particularly prone to injury. In the Rollmi app, users receive a user manual, a helmet recommendation and information on local traffic regulations. The e-scooter rental service has been integrated into the existing app, which is already providing travel services through the Holmi brand.

The start-up handles all the processes internally. According to Kalb, the further development of the apps is particularly labour-intensive. The competition is huge, has good products and plenty of personnel.

“”We are evolving from a ride-hailing app into a multimodal mobility provider with the launch of Rollmi. In the future, our customers will have all the transport services they need.” Jürgen Gunz, Founder and Co-Managing Director

Overregulated market

To a certain extent, the expansion into an e-scooter rental is also inevitable. The start-up company came under pressure as a result of the Uber Act which was passed at the beginning of July 2019. The recent Gelegenheitsverkehrsgesetz (Austrian Occasional Transport Services Act) equates rental cars with taxis and could mean the end of commuter services such as Uber. In future, drivers of rental cars will also be required to undergo professional driver training. Whether there will be fixed tariffs remains to be seen. The decision lies with the federal states. The law comes into force on 1 September.

Obvious beneficiaries

Gunz and Kalb, who had only expanded their Holmi transport service to Vienna at the beginning of April, reject the amendment because it prevents any kind of competition. Beneficiaries are the two large taxi service centers, which work with significantly higher commissions than transport services such as Uber and Holmi. Kalb: “If the overregulation is not eased by state laws, in the future we will also have to offer our vehicles at taxi prices.”

 

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