Google API lets Bird find e-scooters

  • May 25, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Google has helped micro-mobility provider Bird design a tool that lets the Californian company locate its e-scooters accurately.

Bird VPS, for visual parking system, uses Google’s ARCore geospatial API so Bird can geo-localise parked scooters with pinpoint accuracy by leveraging Google 3D scanning, augmented reality (AR) technology and Street View data from around the world.

This should help Bird enable cleaner pavements, more organised parking and better functioning scooter and bike programmes.

When parking a scooter, a rider is prompted to take a quick scan of the surrounding area using their smartphone camera and then scan the QR code on the vehicle. That’s when the underlying technology gets to work.

Using ARCore, Bird VPS seamlessly compares a rider’s images against Google’s knowledge base of data and Street View images in real time. Stationary objects such as buildings and signs are used as reference points, while more dynamic objects such as people and vehicles are disregarded.

This near-instantaneous process results in a precise, centimetre-level geolocation that enables Bird VPS to detect and prevent improper parking with accuracy, helping ensure vehicles are only left in approved areas. These can include designated parking corrals, bike racks and other areas depending on the city.

“The new ARCore geospatial API from Google is an absolute game changer for micro-mobility that allows us to offer cities a first-of-its-kind visual parking system that’s unmatched in terms of accuracy and scalability,” said Justin Balthrop, chief technology officer at Bird. “With Bird VPS, we’re able to meet cities’ number one need, proper parking, in a way that’s never been possible before, and we’re able to do it at scale in cities around the world thanks to Google’s robust global data and technology.”

Bird VPS is either already being piloted or will immediately be rolling out in cities including New York, San Francisco, San Diego, Madrid, Bordeaux and Tel Aviv. More cities will be added in the weeks and months ahead.

The ARCore API, announced at this year’s Google IO conference, enables the creation of location-based AR experiences at world scale. With it, developers can remotely create and deploy AR experiences with the help of precise location and orientation on a global-scale; Google offers Street View coverage in 87 countries.

Bird received early access to this technology from Google that allowed it to create the visual parking system.