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Snazzy new Jump e-bikes hint at Uber’s e-scooter future



A swappable battery and no more clunky U-lock or keypad? These are just some of the changes coming in January on the red Jump electric-assist bicycles rentable through the Uber app.

The next generation of the shared bikes was announced Tuesday, almost a year after Uber acquired the bicycle company and integrated the bike service onto its main platform. In cities where Jump already has bikes, like San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, and Washington, D.C., the bikes will roll out starting Jan. 7. Eventually, new cities will see the next generation of the red bicycles arrive this year.

The new bicycles will look a bit different from the older model. Nick Foley, Jump’s head of product,  called it a “generational refresh” during a preview of the new wheels this week. The most noticeable implementation is the new lock mechanism. Instead of the clunky U-lock, a thick flexible cable lock wraps around posts, and when engaged automatically locks the back wheel to itself. Foley noted that the U-lock, while effective, was from Jump’s early days, seven years ago. After prototyping different locking systems, this new, easier-to-handle method came about. 

Fancy new cable lock.

Fancy new cable lock.

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

The old U-lock.

The old U-lock.

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

Additionally, the “computer” has moved from the back of the bike to a touch display on the dash. New information is now literally front and center, telling riders about charge levels, repair requests, and other features. Tapping or scanning the dash opens the bicycle that’s controlled through the Uber app. There’s also a secure phone holder, so riders can plug in directions into a navigation app while pedaling.

Riding like a pro, with a little help from a map.

Riding like a pro, with a little help from a map.

A new motor that powers the electric-assist boost is still on the front wheel, but now the bicycle has a swappable battery on its neck. This is a big efficiency boost and easier for fleet management. The bicycle should have the same range as before as it’s a similar battery, just with a better charging system.

The bike’s real-time connectivity, while not a visible change for the model, is just as useful – it makes maintaining the fleet easier for the Jump team. Data about the bike’s status is sent to the cloud from sensors and triggers within the bike for instant reporting and better self-diagnosing. The bike “already knows what’s wrong with it,” Foley said.

Also in the refresh are new parts for the handles, seat, and lights. It’s the little things that can make a difference. “It’s deceptively similar,” Foley said, but even the paint is refreshed and intended to last longer.

The older bicycles won’t head to the trash heap, but can be replaced with new components from the next generation of bicycles because they are “backwards-compatible,” in true tech parlance. Foley noted that these bicycles are meant to last for three to five years, “These vehicles are long-lasting assets to a city.”

Most notably, Foley emphasized how all the new components can translate into better e-scooters. So far, Uber has launched its Jump-branded scooters only in Austin and Los Angeles, but Foley made it pretty clear that 2019 will see more scooters around the world. Taking the “brains” and swappable battery tech from the e-bikes, Foley thinks Jump scooters could last much longer than the few months most scooters survive out in the wild now.

Several new job listings this week indicate an expansion to new cities like Brooklyn, Atlanta, Miami, San Antonio, Tempe, West Sacramento, and Dallas. The bikes are also coming to lands beyond North America, in places like Europe, Madrid, Lisbon, Paris, Amsterdam, Krakow, and London.

The red vehicles are on the move.

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