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Bird designs new scooter to fend off vandals

The Bird Two comes with anti-theft encryption, mostly hidden brake cables and an anti-tipping kickstand.

One feature of the Bird Two is an anti-tipping kickstand.

Electric scooters have been found hanging in trees, thrown in lakes, hotwired and stripped. When Scoot first launched its scooters in San Francisco in 2018, one of the biggest issues it said it faced was theft and vandalism. No wonder it would get to work building a tougher model to resist such abuse.

Scoot, now owned by Bird, introduced a new scooter Thursday, dubbed Bird Two. It'll first be available in San Francisco, then roll out to other cities.

The vehicle comes with "autonomous damage sensors" that are designed to detect potentially dangerous maintenance issues. It has puncture-resistant tires, an anti-tipping kickstand and "enterprise level anti-theft encryption." And its design minimizes exposed cables and screws.

"The absence of excessive exposed screws helps create a sleeker design while also reducing injuries and vandalism," the company said in a statement. Bird said this feature will also help with safety (which makes sense considering some scooter haters like to cut brake cables).

Scooter companies say they're solving the "last-mile" transportation problem, giving commuters an easy and convenient way to zip around cities while helping ease road congestion and smog. But a lot of residents got angry when the companies dropped the vehicles on unsuspecting cities without warning in 2018.

First-time riders began zooming down sidewalks at 15 mph, swerving between pedestrians. And they left the vehicles wherever they felt like it, cluttering walkways and storefronts and blocking bike racks and wheelchair access ramps. That's when the vandals set in.

Scoot initially addressed theft by adding locks to its scooters that allowed the vehicles to be attached to bike racks or poles. When that didn't fully work, it temporarily pulled its scooters from the streets to install anti-theft firmware.

Now Bird Two has those features and more. The new model has a battery that can reportedly last 50% longer. And the company said early data on the anti-tipping kickstand shows it being upright 99.4% of the time. Bird added that the anti-theft encryption is to both deter thieves and "protect riders from potentially malicious hacks."

Bird Two will replace existing Scoot scooters in San Francisco. The company plans to deploy 1,000 of the vehicles in the city immediately.