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Bird and u-blox: Keeping sidewalks for walkers

December 28, 2021  - By
Photo: Bird

Photo: Bird

Scooter company Bird and u-blox have jointly developed a new Smart Sidewalk Protection system to help prevent shared scooters from operating on city sidewalks. It uses the u-blox ZED-F9R, a dead-reckoning module that fuses GNSS and sensor data, delivering centimeter-level location information in any condition. This allows the system to monitor whether a Bird e-scooter is being operated unsafely, such as on a sidewalk or speeding. Using Bird data, the companies co-developed a version of the ZED F9R module tailored to meet the needs of the shared micromobility industry.

The dual-band ZED-F9R GNSS receiver supports up to eight times more satellite signal types and four times more constellations (GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and BeiDou) than typical solutions. The module processes real-time vehicle data, including wheel speed, IMU sensor data (including acceleration and heading), and real-time kinematic data that corrects for ionospheric interference. The technology is also optimized for e-scooters by applying dynamic models matching their movements.

To turn this sensor-fusion module into its Smart Sidewalk Protection system, Bird developed a five-step process for creating sidewalk maps with centimeter accuracy. It starts with a geofence outline constructed from satellite imagery or city GIS data. Bird then uses surveying equipment to measure the location of three city landmarks. Only a few measurements are needed for each city. Once the landmarks have been identified, they compare their location to the satellite imagery to determine offsets and rotations and use them to shift and transform each of the original geofence outlines. Finally, they pre-load the updated geofence outlines onto Bird vehicles to eliminate latency. When combined with the hyper-accurate location measurements provided by Bird’s sensor-fusion module, they can detect and respond to sidewalk riding almost instantly, according to Bird.

The micromobility module is being piloted in Milwaukee and San Diego. Madrid will be Bird’s first pilot city in Europe, with plans for a broader roll-out slated in 2022.

About the Author:


Matteo Luccio possesses 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@gpsworld.com or 541-543-0525.

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