Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Another business model that the team has looked at is the Zip Car rental system.

Zip Car is a rental service based on a two-way model: customers have to return the car to the same location from which they picked it up. They also have to reserve cars online in advance.

The MIT team says that the Zip Car two-way model is great for neighborhoods where people have to boomerang in and out to run errands. But in a dense city starved for parking, the MIT designers see great virtue in their one-way system, which lets people move from spot to spot without returning to their point of origin. In the ideal City Car scheme, vehicles can be rented from one rack and returned to another.

Still, Robin Chase, the founder and former CEO of Zip Car, has some reservations about the MIT group’s system. She says that she’s worried about logistical and operational problems, such as the even distribution of vehicles. With a one-way model, too many could wind up in one location. The company must then pay for trucks to redistribute the cars or scooters throughout the city.

Chase adds that when she was with Zip Car, she noticed that customers were reluctant to adopt new technologies. “Our electric car was our least rented vehicle,” she says. “People didn’t seem to trust the technology.”

The MIT team is not deterred. It’s looking at Taipei as an ideal location in which to roll out the electric scooter, which was developed in partnership with SYM, a major Taiwanese scooter manufacturer. “Taipei is teeming with scooters,” says Ryan Chin, a designer with the Smart Cities group.

Currently, there are nearly as many scooters in Taiwan as there are people. During a typical rush hour, traffic lanes overflow, and riders wear surgical masks to filter the pollution from exhaust. Some three million scooters lie abandoned throughout the country.

“If a shared scooter is used by 10 different people a day, you’ll reduce the number of scooters on the road by half,” Chin says.

With a successful run at the Milan motorcycle show, Chin says that his group’s 50-kilogram scooter could be mass-produced and deployed within three years.

43 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credit: Franco Vairani (top), Peter Schmitt (bottom)

Tagged: Computing, software, MIT, electric cars, electric vehicle, automobiles

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me
×

A Place of Inspiration

Understand the technologies that are changing business and driving the new global economy.

September 23-25, 2014
Register »