When you’re riding, the phone will show you details such as your speed and range based on the scooter’s battery life. An on-screen map zooms in to show you the streets around you while you’re riding, then zooms out to show you a larger map when you slow down or stop.
At first, users will need to reserve a Scoot in advance, but Keating hopes it will eventually be possible to pop your phone into a parked scooter to find out if it’s available and for how long.
Since the Scoots are small and their rental period is limited to no more than two days, the company believes the service will be legal in most states. In California, which has stricter scooter- and motorcycle-related laws than many states, a Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman told Technology Review that Scoot Networks passes legal muster.
Regardless of its legality, some analysts are skeptical of Scoot Networks’ prospects. Ratika Garg, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan, says that while the startup sounds interesting, it will mostly be useful in niche areas such as university campuses.
Jason Helfstein, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Company, says that while Scoot Networks can probably start up without losing a lot of money, it’s unlikely to be a big business, in part because few people have ever ridden a scooter. “At the end of the day, if it’s bicycle distance, why not just bicycle?” he says.