Parking and e-charging hubs, designed to improve micro-mobility and autonomous vehicle infrastructure, will be offered through Stantec’s new automated mobility practice, GenerationAV
By now, every municipal planner knows there’s a lot of kit involved in making transport “smart” — from sensors, to screens, to payment points, to the vehicles themselves. Decarbonizing transport also requires a re-working of infrastructure to support car-free mobility, including places to park our various wheeled devices.
In Canada, the challenge has been exacerbated recently with the arrival of dockless micro-mobility — especially shared e-scooter and e-bike services — and may again be as forms of autonomy become more prominent.
Enter Stantec, an Edmonton-based global consulting firm. In November, it launched Stantec GenerationAV, a new automated mobility practice, and last month it unveiled a new partnership — with Swiftmile, a California company that makes sophisticated micro-mobility parking and charging hubs designed to tidy up not just micro-mobility but other smart and autonomous infrastructure.
As Marie-France Laurin, Montreal-based director of business development for Stantec GenerationAV, tells Electric Autonomy Canada: “We’ve worked with a lot of cities, campuses and organizations that are looking into micro-mobility solutions, but they really have a challenge when it comes down to the parking and charging infrastructure.”
Swiftmile’s micro-mobility hubs provide the benefits of docked cycle-hire systems: the ability to manage parking locations and keep sidewalks clear while ensuring the user a reliable source of charged bikes or scooters, in a regular spot. Its clients to date include the U.S. e-scooter service Spin and BVG, Berlin’s main transit company.
The hubs offer many benefits to cities, says Laurin. “You want to have competition from as many providers as possible for micro-mobility. This is where it is interesting to have one station that can charge different types of scooters and different types of e-bikes and not having to duplicate the charging stations and the parking locations. That’s why Swiftmile makes sense for us because they are technology agnostic. They don’t work with only one micro-mobility solution, but all of them. So, yes, you can park your electric scooter or electric bike. And you can charge them there. But there’s also an option to have a charging station for delivery bots.”
That forward-looking aspect also makes them attractive to consultants considering smart, micro- and autonomous mobility. Swiftmile’s hubs can be equipped with Lidar, for example, a positioning technology that uses light to measure distance. “If you have Lidar installed on street infrastructure, your street becomes more AV-ready than the regular street,” says Laurin. That means if an AV’s onboard Lidar navigation fails, the system of sensors across the city can step in as backup.
“Just having those option there that are not as expensive as a traditional form really makes sense, I think. [The hubs] also offer flexibility to a city because you can move those stations if you want to.”
Canada picking up slowly
From Stantec’s position, the Swiftmile hubs are part of a suite of options they’d recommend depending on the client. In the near term, at least, Laurin also wants to manage Canadian expectations on when these technologies will start appearing on our streets.
“I would say that Canada is a tricky market right now. For the obvious reason that we have winter. Right now, the southern U.S. is probably where you’re looking at more deployment because of the nature of the weather there.”
“Canada is slowly picking up on the new mobility solutions. Over the last couple of years, I saw a lot of new interest from public transit authority in Canada but also bigger clients or campuses that are looking a little deeper into the transportation options that are out there.”
“But I talk to people all across the country on micro-mobility, smart mobility autonomous vehicle technology and the interest is there.”
And this is where Laurin is more optimistic: “When it comes down to AV, and micro-mobility and smart mobility, I’ve been like a broken record for years, but I say the same thing: it’s a cocktail of solutions that will make us leave our car at home.”
“There’s definitely interest that we’ll see coming in the next couple of months I would say. There is going to be a big difference between right now and the end year.”