November 20, 2019 / 2:05 PM / 24 days ago

Scooter maker Superpedestrian raises $20 million, promises fewer breakdowns

Scooter technology firm Superpedestrian founder and CEO Assaf Biderman shows the company's new scooter born in an MIT lab and that uses software to detect failures remotely, in San Francisco, California, U.S. November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Jane Lanhee Lee

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Electric scooter company Superpedestrian on Wednesday said it had raised $20 million for its diagnostic software that can spot impending hardware failure, a major problem for scooter operators.

Electric scooters have become a popular mode of transportation in many cities, but the vehicles tend to break in a matter of months, raising costs for startups. Other companies also are looking to improve hardware, including scooter network operator Bird, which said earlier this year it had started to design its own more rugged scooters.

Assaf Biderman, founder and CEO of Superpedestrian, said a test of 150 scooters in Washington, D.C., found a 73% reduction in operating costs. The diagnostic software was able to prevent some breakages, such as an overheating battery, and also cut labor costs by pinpointing what needed to be fixed.

Biderman, who is also an Associate Director of MIT’s research lab for improving cities with technology, Senseable City Lab, said technology he patented in 2014 can detect when brakes or battery fail or are about to fail and alert the operator.

The roughly $600 scooters, a price that depends on volume of order, can last 2,500 rides.

Biderman views Superpedestrian as a software company rather than a hardware maker and said he would consider licensing his technology to other firms.

The latest funding round was co-led by Spark Capital, which was a seed investor in Superpedestrian, and General Catalyst. The company has so far raised a total of $64 million. Superpedestrian didn’t disclose the valuation for the capital raising.

Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee; editing by Richard Pullin

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