SEOUL -- As the popularity of electric scooters used for urban mobility rental services increases, the operator of Seoul's subway train network has partnered with KSTI, the software-making wing of taxi-hailing service operator KST Mobility, to set up and test charging facilities near subway stations.
There are about 36,000 electric scooters operated by 16 rental companies in Seoul. The convenient and quick last-mile-service garnered explosive popularity in business districts and near schools. The scooters capable of traveling at a maximum speed of 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) per hour are available for 100 won ($0.09) per minute.
Electric scooters are favored as a new form of quick transport, but they have safety issues. It is very common to see electric scooters scattered across streets and sidewalks to become safety hazards for pedestrians. Service operators using GPS pick up electric scooters at night for charging and maintenance and place them near crowded subway stations and bus stops early in the morning.
Seoul Metro said in a statement on October 21 that it would break ground for electric scooter charging stations in 2021 near five subway stations. "We will test the facilities for a certain period and see if they work," Seoul Metro's new transport team manager Kim Tae-jung told Aju news.
The test will be conducted by electric scooter rental service operators through an integrated smartphone app that would offer various one-stop services such as registration and payment as well as other features co-developed by Seoul Metro and KSTI. The subway operator would offer transit discounts for those who pick up or return scooters to charging facilities. Currently, transit discounts are offered when people transit between buses and subways.
"We have prepared this project for the future and prevent safety accidents," Kim said, predicting that the consumer demand for an electric scooter rental service would increase if a related law is revised in December to allow anyone aged over 13 to use it.
To enhance safety, Seoul Metro will test a helmet rental service. According to the Seoul Emergency Headquarters, the number of accidents involving electric scooters rose from 57 in 2018 to 117 in 2019. Data from the Korea Consumer Agency showed that about 40 percent of electric scooter accidents in 2019 involved injuries to the head or face.
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