Shared micromobility company Tier Mobility announced on Wednesday that it has acquired Fantasmo, an American computer vision-based electric scooter parking startup whose Tier technology has been tested in several cities across Europe.
Tier will bring in all of Fantasmo’s 15 staff and continue to invest and develop what will now be in-house Camera Positioning System (CPS) technology that the company says is more accurate than GPS. and can validate the marking of electric scooters within 20 centimeters or less.
The acquisition signals both Tier’s commitment to reducing the “public nuisance” effect of scooters parked on sidewalks and its ongoing model of strategic acquisition to vertically integrate capabilities or gain more land and vehicles.
Neither company would share the terms of the deal, which we expect from Tier. This is the Berlin-based company’s fourth purchase in five months, each as financially mysterious as the last. In November 2021, Tier bought German bike-sharing startup Nextbike, and in December it acquired Wind Mobility’s Italian electric scooter business, Vento Mobility. More recently, Tier purchased Spin from Ford, marking its strong entry into the North American market.
Tier has implemented Fantasmo’s mapping solution to eliminate irresponsible parking over the past year, first in Paris and later in other locations including London, York, Dusseldorf and Leipzig. CPS technology involves drivers using their phone’s camera to scan the environment around where they have parked the scooter, taking information such as patterns in buildings or road signs to determine the position of the vehicle. This metadata is then compared to Fantasmo’s 3D maps to position exactly where the vehicle is.
Fantasmo has about 20-25 mapped cities mostly in Europe and some in North America, according to Ryan Measel, co-founder and CEO of Fantasmo. With Tier support, that number will likely increase, but not just for Tier’s benefit.
Fantasmo has other micromobility operators in its portfolio, including Helbiz. Tier said he had no intention of severing ties if the counterpart had any interest in continuing, and pledged to make Fantasmo’s technology widely available by increasing its R&D budget to accelerate development.
“We are going to take our service and use it internally, but also offer it as a service to other operators with the idea that it can be a solution for cities in general and bring the whole market to a point where it can operate in a mode to meet compliance needs,” Measel told TechCrunch.
This means Tier not only benefits from integrating Fantasmo’s technology, but it can also potentially add another revenue stream by selling the service to other carriers or apps.
The ADAS scooter trend deepens
Most major industry players are currently testing or implementing a version of ADAS scooter that not only protects against improper parking, but also improper driving. For example, Superpedestrian acquired Navmatic last year to integrate the company’s hyper-accurate location technology that can also detect and correct dangerous driving behavior. Bird has developed similar technology in-house.
On Wednesday, Tier also announced plans to introduce new computer vision-based driver assistance technology that can detect traffic violations and collisions, as well as reckless scooter driving. This technology will be enabled by Fantasmo’s CPS for high positioning accuracy and centimeter-accurate mapping, and combined with a vision sensor and Tier’s new IoT platform.
“Riders who violate rules and regulations will be alerted to their infractions and may even be fined or banned,” Tier said in a statement. “The new technology is currently being privately tested and will be rolled out to cities around the world in the coming months.”
The company would no longer provide information on this “new technology”, such as what is specifically meant by “vision sensor” and how Tier’s new IoT platform would help facilitate this. The company, however, said the new technology would not be part of any previous or current programs Tier is running with outside companies.
Spin, which again is now part of Tier, is working with Drover AI to implement computer vision technology that basically attaches a camera to a scooter, allowing it to “see” if it’s being driven. in the correct lane of traffic, if it is on a curb or if it is parked improperly. Tier himself also runs a similar program with Luna on Dublin City University campuses.
Drover AI also denied working on a new project with Tier. When pressed, a Tier spokesperson replied that the two partnerships are considered a legacy, with no deeper or deeper integration being considered or supported. Tier’s only goal is to deliver its new in-house solution with Fantasmo at scale next year, the spokesperson said.