Riders on electric scooters roam around the streets of Seoul. People take scooters and return them to designated places with only a few simple touches on the smartphone. Since exhaust gas is not emitted unlike the majority of other vehicles, scooters are valued as an eco-friendly option. Despite the scooter’s aforementioned convenience and environmental advantages, it might not be the most fitting transportation these days with rising issues surrounding its lack of regulation.
Smart mobility is defined as a new type of modern transportation integrating the concepts of the sharing economy, sustainable development, and user-friendly technology. Examples of smart mobility include electric scooters, bicycles, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. In South Korea, the smart mobility industry is rising to become an innovative industry with great potential, having been selected as one of the top 10 Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) issues of 2020 by the Ministry of Science and ICT.
The advantages of smart mobility seem to make it the most ideal mode of transportation in the 21st century, but in reality, several critical problems are rising to the surface. Currently, the safety of electric scooters is being questioned, particularly regarding issues related to user verification and an insufficient road environment. Many citizens claim that the environment for using electric scoters and other smart mobility products has not yet been safely implemented.
Currently, users who have a driver’s license are qualified to borrow electric scooters. For instance, the smart mobility service application Kickgoing requires users to upload a picture of their license before allowing them to use the scooters. Despite its convenience, the application’s lack of a rigorous verification process has rather heightened the risk of accidents and the possibility of identity theft. The absence of a thorough and appropriate education about the detailed process of riding the scooter has indeed aggravated the threats scooter riders pose to the entire traffic order.
Without proper regulation regarding the area where electric scooters can be used, road accidents involving electric scooters have increased substantially as well. According to the Consumer Injury Surveillance System of the Korea Consumer Agency, there have been 297 accidents on the road, with the number especially skyrocketing since 2016. Adding to the situation, the word Kick-rani— the combination of kick from kickboard and rani from gorani, a Korean word for elk — started to be commonly used to describe electric scooters that pop out of nowhere. Indeed, the coinage as well as the incessant usage of the word well-reflects the numerous cases of accidents caused due to uncontrolled scooters on the road.
To relieve the concerns of citizens regarding the unduly liberal smart mobility, the government should promptly set feasible regulations. Not only strengthening the user verification process, but also mandatory safety education should be implemented. Furthermore, the area electric scooters are allowed to use — the most realistic plan at present being the utilization of bicycle paths — should be strictly limited to protect riders as well as citizens. The government must endeavor to cooperate with local districts in order to fix the boundaries for electric scooters.
The demand for smart mobility is intensifying as a convenient alternative to traditional means of transportation. However, the risk of utilizing smart mobility certainly seems high, due to undeveloped legal regulations. In order to protect not only the users but also citizens on the streets, the government should find feasible measures to arrange a safe and secure environment for all.