Technology

Meet the corporate that maps European cities to repair escooter misparking

This article was originally published by Steve Schaefer on Clean the fleet report, a publication that provides readers with the information they need to switch to the best fuel economy cars and trucks, including electric cars, fuel cells, plug-in hybrids, hybrids, and advanced diesel and gasoline engines.

Micromobility – including electric scooters – is the latest fast and clean way to get around urban areas. However, a big problem is managing where the shared scooter fleets go and where they are parked. Fantasmo has a solution – camera vision based positioning. Fantasmo makes this possible by first mapping cities on the ground floor and then using scooter riders using their phone’s camera to accurately record their exact location when parking.

Where the scooters should live

When the first fleets of scooters began operating in Santa Monica, California, drivers took a photo at the end of the ride that roughly indicated their location. GPS was used to create a geofence in the city to say keep scooters out of parks, but wasn’t very accurate. When other cities started having scooter fleets, their biggest problems were poor parking and clutter, as well as driving on the sidewalk. GPS mapping was too dull for an instrument to monitor effectively. In cities like San Francisco and Chicago, e-scooters only need to be attached to posts or signs to keep them off the sidewalk.

[Read: How much does it cost to buy, own, and run an EV? It’s not as much as you think]

Fantasmo’s technology solves this problem by providing the granularity that enables accurate tracking of scooter parking. It will also be useful for future applications, e.g. B. Tracking of delivery bots and use by the visually impaired.

Mapping the key cities

phantom is a seven year old American startup backed by investors such as Unlock Venture Partners, Freestyle Capital, TenOneTen Ventures and LDV Capital.

The company recently Partnership with the large European micro-mobility operator TIER Mapping more than 85 cities through exclusive partnerships in Europe and the UK, including Paris, France and York, England.

Jameson DetweilerJameson Detweiler

I spoke to Jameson Detweiler, Co-Founder and President of Fantasmo, about his company and the software and hardware that make it possible. Jameson graduated from Drexel University with a degree in materials science and technology and has extensive startup and leadership experience. He previously co-founded LaunchRock, an idea launching product, founder and CEO of GreenKonnect, a human-powered search engine for the green construction industry, and co-founded LED lighting startup Summalux.

Fantasmo started out as Fantasmo Studios. They were looking for the technology to create augmented reality games like Pokemon Go that overlay the game on your actual surroundings. But it soon became much more.

“We wanted to combine alternate reality games with machines to better understand the real world and help people,” said Jameson. “We have decided to focus on the next generation of card technology.”

Create a map from scratch

Satellite positioning (GPS) is used by many applications. In cities, however, the problem is that buildings, trees and other objects can block the view of the street. This leads to inaccuracies when the signal bounces off these objects. Fantasmo’s solution is to create a 3D map of cities on the ground floor, which is captured with cameras and sensors similar to those of electric vehicles. Once a city is mapped, Fantasmo can determine the position of someone or something by pinning camera footage onto that digital map using the Camera Positioning System (CPS) – an alternative to GPS.

“We can take a visual fingerprint of the environment, like a large QR code, and use advanced math to interpolate it from the images,” said Jameson.

Fantasmo maps a city using the 22-pound Fantasmo Explorer backpack that a Fantasmo employee carries when walking the sidewalks of the destination city.

Scan the streetscape on footScan the streetscape on foot

Fantasmo recently walked 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles) from Paris and is now based in York. Other cities are on the way (as part of the TIER partnership). By taking pictures of the sidewalk, it is possible to precisely target where the scooters are at the end of a trip if the driver takes a few seconds of video pictures of the surrounding buildings with his camera.

The Paris project employed six backpacks, each shared by two shift workers for two weeks. The French capital enjoys high levels of scooter usage, but limited pavement space. Therefore, it has designated 2,500 mandatory parking spaces for them. Fantasmo mapped these areas first and will eventually map the entire city.

A city on your back

The high-tech backpacks are equipped with shoulder and hip straps, like good backpack equipment. They are bursting with two lidar pucks and six cameras like those used on autonomous vehicles, and somewhat resembling micro-sized Google mapping cars. After a few hours of training, employees follow their assigned tasks for the day and communicate with the backpacks using iPads.

Well if a French scooter drivers finish their journey, they will scan the area with the TIER app for a few seconds and the app tells them with an accuracy of 20 cm (almost eight inches) whether they are in a designated parking space. If it doesn’t, they’ll need to switch to one before they can finish their ride. No physical infrastructure is required.

Fantasmo manages the entire mapping project for a city for TIER or another client. This means that they will visit the target city and use their mission planning tool to draw the boundaries and create walking routes that cover the entire city. Once these routes are queued, they can be assigned to hikers. Fantasmo’s system monitors progress and can close any gaps that may arise.

Of course there will be changes in a city over time, but the software can flag changes when drivers use them so that new images can be captured, such as when a building is demolished. However, the initial backpack mapping creates a “substrate layer” that doesn’t require much updating. The images use solid, permanent elements like the window sills of a building, so changes to the signage, for example, do not affect accuracy.

“It’s a dynamic situation,” said Jameson. “We recently had to skip mapping a section in York because it was flooded,” said Jameson.

Future cards

Jameson sees the future in self-healing maps and the use of data from more sources.

“For the next generation, any device can take pictures, mask personal information, and create a digital twin of a city,” said Jameson. “This is good for autonomous solutions for micromobility, pedestrians and cars.”

Bird scooterNow they are shown

He also sees a time when technology will live on the scooters themselves.

“We’ll know 100 percent where the scooter is,” said Jameson. The scooters will be as smart as robots. “

Jameson believes accurate positioning is a stepping stone to real autonomy in cities. Every device is aware of itself, its location and other vehicles, scooters, bicycles and people. Thanks to the joint assignment, buildings can become “transparent”. The goal is zero accidents and maximum efficiency. Fantasmo’s applications also work with mobile, auto and robotic functions, so there are lots of exciting things to come.

When will the company come home and map American cities? There are plans and Fantasmo will announce them when the time is right.

Autonomy and micromobility are vital to the health of our cities, and Fantasmo’s map technology is right at the heart of it and makes it possible.
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Published on February 10, 2021 – 11:00 UTC

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