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Former Uber executive's new startup wants to bring your electric scooter to you

Think of Tortoise as the Android operating system to mobility companies' operations.

Is Tortoise onto something? Sounds like it.

You can't just dump electric bicycles and scooters into a city and let people run wild with them. They need to be in the best location to serve a population. That's where Tortoise wants to come in: It's the behind-the-scenes workhorse (turtle?) that aims to help companies navigate and organize their mobility offerings. 

TechCrunch spoke with company founder, and former Uber executive, Dmitry Shevelenko in an interview published Tuesday. He described how the startup plans to help make electric scooters and bicycles easier to operate.

Turtle recommends mobility companies outfit their scooters and bikes with simple gear including radar, cameras, a processor robotic training wheels and a motor, which should cost about $100 per vehicle. With all of this onboard, it will give each vehicle autonomous capabilities, making it possible to remotely move them to areas where they're needed most or when they need charging. Human operators can also take control of them as needed.

Right now, humans need to organize these machines in cities, which Shevelenko said often means using vans to haul them around. This can diminish the benefits scooters and bikes bring to an area.

The goal is to eventually persuade companies that operate fleets of mobility machines to build their vehicles to include Tortoise, just like a phone manufacturer includes an operating system. If the technology becomes widespread, Tortoise imagines it could park a scooter in a needed area with remote controls or automation. A rider could request a scooter to meet them at a location or the machine could even go to the rider.

All of these grand dreams require work still. Right now, the startup is focused on proving its technology in San Francisco with retrofitted scooters. So don't be too surprised is a scooter zips by with no rider in future. That might just be Tortoise doing its thing.

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