News & Opinion | June 7, 2018 3:24 pm

Silicon Valley Start-Up Unleashes Shouting Scooters on Cities

Unauthorized contact with randomly parked scooters prompts loud alarms and verbal threats.

scooters
Beth Chitel experiences Lime's electric scooter. (Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Hyoung Chang

A Silicon Valley startup is unleashing electric scooters on city streets that can be picked up and dropped at random by riders—so long as they download the app and pay before they fiddle with one, as a recent reporter at The Guardian discovered.

“Unlock me to ride me, or I’ll call the police,” the e-scooter shouts loudly, before emitting robotic noises “so loud that heads turn on busy city streets.”

But the sound isn’t just an annoying one, Oakland councilmember Rebecca Kaplan told the The Guardian. “Having a random voice yelling out, ‘I’m going to call the police on you,’ it’s really scary,” she said. She’s now working on legislation to regulate the scooters, operated by the company Lime. “This is not only an annoying noise, this is a threat to people.”

Although the company told The Guardian that they’ve updated their “anti-theft alarm” in new models, they haven’t been so receptive to other criticism or calls for change. The company recently ignored orders from the city of Denver to remove the dockless scooters that are scattered around the city’s sidewalks.

“Why would they call the police? And could they call police?” Nancy Kuhn, a spokeswoman with the city of Denver’s public works agency, said to The Guardian.“That doesn’t sound like a great idea to me … Is this supposed to be funny?”

San Francisco supervisor Aaron Peskin told the outlet that in his city, where the scooters have been legally banned, people are even less amused.

“I’ve gotten plenty of complaints from residents and shopkeepers who are pissed off about the noise as well as the police state intimidation tactic. It’s kind of ironic they go and plop them in the middle of the sidewalk, and then these things start abusing people.”