Brazil

Amidst controversy, Bird electric scooters break into Latin America

Bird Electric SCooters

Electric scooter startup Bird has announced its expansion to the continent of Latin America. Launched in the US in 2017, the company has raised a total of US $415M in funding over five rounds and, in September 2018, reached its 10 millionth ride.

With scooters already available across the US and in several European cities, Bird now plans to launch first in Mexico City, where 100 electric scooters will be introduced across four different neighbourhoods, and then in Brazil.

The app, which allows its users to locate electric scooters, start and end their rides as-and-when they please, parking the scooter near bike racks if possible, has received somewhat mixed reactions over the course of its relatively short life span.

Besides the controversy surrounding rider and pedestrian safety, there is also concern as to whether local Latin American governments will give permission for the app to operate in the area.

Given recent predictions that the market is set to be worth US $28 billion by 2025, electric scooters have already weaved their way into most major Latin American cities, including Mexico City and São Paulo, which have both developed their own electric scooter services.

In Mexico City, dockless scooter startup Grin already operates in 95 zones across the capital’s neighbourhood of La Condensa-Roma and has recently merged with Brazilian equivalent Ride. Likewise, Scoo also transports users around the city of São Paulo on electric scooters at speeds of up 20km/h. 

“The operation here is certainly very different to other cities across the world where scooter sharing systems have been implemented,” Ride co-founder Paula Nader explained to Latam.tech. “After our recent merger with Mexico’s Grin, we are even more prepared for the challenge that is operating in Brazil and in other Latin American countries. They are enormous markets,” she continued.

Speaking to The Verge, a Bird spokesperson maintained that the company “operates in accordance with all of the laws and regulations on the books in every city in which [they] operate.”

“We look forward to working with city and community leaders to help Mexico City reach its goals of getting cars off the road and reducing traffic congestion,” the spokesperson added.

Despite Bird’s stipulation that users must wear safety equipment, as well as avoiding pavements and sticking to the exclusive use of bicycle lanes, recent incidents have affected the popularity of the service.

The question, therefore, revolves around whether Latin America’s largest metropolises will take well to the arrival of the US electric scooter giant, having already proved their capability of tackling the problem of air pollution themselves.

This article was updated on 05/11/2018 with comment from Brazilian electric scooter startup Ride.

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