Bird, Lime, and electric scooter startups around the world are facing challenges as the micro-mobility space heats up—from skeptical regulators to scooters catching on fire.
At Lime, two women are making some of the key decisions about how to deal with those challenges, including controlling where you scooter is allowed to go and where it won’t.
Li Fan is Lime’s new head of engineering, joining from a role as head of engineering at Pinterest and before that as head of image search at Google. Lindsey Haswell is Lime’s new general counsel, a veteran of another mobility company that drew regulatory ire: Uber. (Lime also recently brought on Paloma Castro Martinez, an LVMH, eBay, and McDonald’s alumna, as head of international communications and branding.)
Engineering at Lime involves a lot of interaction with the physical world. Fan’s team works on the app scooter riders use, Lime’s tracking tools that monitor where its fleet of scooters are dispersed—as well as their condition and level of charge—and with Lime’s hardware team in China and the factory that ships its scooters on internet of things solutions.
But Fan is also the one who will implement technology that will help appease regulators reluctant to let discarded scooters overtake their cities. Lime’s engineers could impose parking restrictions so that scooters can’t be parked in spaces rejected by a city; impose speed limits on scooters within certain parts of a city (often changing those limits according to the time of day or night); and lock scooters that violate those rules. Besides controlling how its scooters work, Lime can share its anonymized data with city officials who embrace micro-mobility to help cities understand traffic patterns.
Geosensoring, as the techniques used for controlling scooters are called, can get down to the city block to help cities control scooter traffic.
“I feel the engineering team can definitely help cities to understand and work with them together to find the best settings for these green transportation solutions,” Fan says.
That’s where Fan’s work overlaps with Haswell’s. Haswell, who joined Uber in 2015 after the company had reached the later stages of its “ask forgiveness, not permission” philosophy with regulators, is now shaping Lime’s approach to city regulations and politics from the outset. Haswell will be one of the architects of regulation in an industry that’s still, in practice, less than a year old.
“Good regulation sensibly allows these companies to get going quickly,” Haswell said. “Bad regulation in this space is regulation that just bans scooters.”
So far, Lime has dealt with transportation regulation in London leftover from before the industrial revolution, rejection of scooters in San Francisco, and surprisingly welcoming attitudes from major European cities that were hostile toward ridesharing.
Next up, Haswell and Fan will be working on those city-friendly technology solutions as Lime expands beyond its current 10 countries—and to some of the most challenging cities within the United States, like New York.
“If we have a willing partner in the city, we’ll be able to find the sensible ground where we’re really, truly improving transportation,” Haswell says.