How One San Francisco Scooter Company Spots Illegal Use

We’ve all seen it: an electric scooter zipping by on the sidewalk, weaving through pedestrians. In California, this is illegal.

The sidewalk riding ban has been a point of tension among scooter companies, local governments and riders as everyone points fingers about who’s to blame for breaking the law and who should enforce it.

Now, one San Francisco company says it has a solution.

Lime, which has scooters across the Bay Area, is introducing technology, which may be the first of its kind, to detect sidewalk riding. It’s based on the assumption that sidewalks — with evenly spaced grooves between concrete slabs — have a predictably different surface than roads. The company says its in-app software, which The Chronicle viewed a demonstration of prior to the company’s planned announcement on Tuesday, can judge based on vibration data at timed intervals whether the scooter is on a sidewalk with up to 95% confidence.