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Startups Tortoise, Swiftmile are combining their tech to solve scooter chaos

Megan Rose Dickey

Sidewalk congestion is a major pain point for cities, and fully charged scooters for riders are no guarantee. Those are the two main selling points of micromobility docking startup Swiftmile and remote-controlled scooter repositioning startup Tortoise, respectively. Today, Swiftmile and Tortoise announced a partnership to solve those problems.

"These are incredibly complementary services," Tortoise co-founder and president Dmitry Shevelenko told TechCrunch. "Swiftmile provides the ideal destination and origin for repositioning. So riders can have the experience that dockless enables, they can leave the scooter wherever their destination is and using Tortoise, can drive to the nearest Swiftmile station to dock and charge."

Swiftmile has already deployed hundreds of its charging stations in cities like Austin and Berlin. Later this month, Swiftmile will deploy a Spin-branded dock in San Francisco. Swiftmile charges scooter operators by the minute, but not to exceed a certain amount, depending on the market. Initially, the docking system will be open to all operators in order to show them how it works and how beneficial it can be. After a certain period of time, Swiftmile will only charge its customers’ scooters.

Tortoise, which launched in October, does not make its own scooters. Instead, Tortoise sells its software to customers, which need to install about $100 worth of equipment on each scooter in order to run Tortoise’s software. That includes two phone cameras, a piece of radar, a processor and a motor. If it’s a two-wheeled vehicle, Tortoise requires the addition of robotic training wheels. All of this is included in the reference design Tortoise provides to operators.

Given the volume of micromobility operators in the space today, Tortoise aims to make it easier for these companies to more strategically deploy their respective vehicles and reposition them when needed. Using autonomous technology in tandem with remote human intervention, Tortoise’s software enables operators to remotely relocate their scooters and bikes to places where riders need them, or, where operators need them to be recharged. On an empty sidewalk, Tortoise may employ autonomous technologies, while it may rely on humans to remotely control the vehicle on a highly trafficked city block.

"Cities say they need 21st-century infrastructure," Swiftmile CEO Colin Roche told TechCrunch. "This creates that where we have these hubs centered around Swiftmile and Tortoise can come and park and charge. It's exactly what the cities want."

The plan is to aggressively launch this partnership wherever Tortoise operates. Currently, however, Tortoise only operates in Peachtree Corners, Georgia in partnership with GoX. Shevelenko says he hopes to launch in partnership with Swiftmile in Peachtree Corners as soon as possible. Ideally, the first pilot will be this summer, he said.

"The technology is ready and the solutions work together," he said. "We want cities to know this is available and the tech is ready and mature."

After Peachtree Corners, Tortoise and Swiftmile have their eyes set on San Jose. Tortoise, however, is not yet disclosing its vehicle partner.

"But Swiftmile and Tortoise have the same set of customers, in general," Shevelenko said. "The bulk of the Swiftmile business is selling directly to scooter operators and they're our customer as well. We have this joint shared customer."

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