HomeTechSpeeding ebikes are a new menace. Amsterdam wants to remote-control them

Speeding ebikes are a new menace. Amsterdam wants to remote-control them


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A few weeks back, Amsterdam announced it was trialling new technology that can automatically reduce ebike speed when riders enter certain parts of the city.  

Predictably, the initiative sparked debate. On Reddit, some expressed concerns about data privacy and state nannying, while others felt that stricter measures were needed to protect other road users from ebikes, especially those with aftermarket mods that make them go faster. Some felt the technology — dubbed Adaptive Speed Governance (ASG) — would be impossible to roll out in practice. 

Regardless, we deemed the issue worthy of deeper investigation. That’s why we sat down with Paul Timmer who designed the system.

“Slowing ebikes down is only a last resort,” says Timmer, who works for the Townmaking Institute, a non-profit focused on developing mobility solutions. “But of course, that’s the bit that got all the press attention.” 

How does ebike speed limiting work?

The Institute has built a platform that integrates various layers of spatial information. This includes fixed locations like schools or busy intersections or temporary zones that could pose a hazard, like a street festival for instance. The platform is also fed real-time data on traffic and the like, collected by sensors.  

A module installed on the handlebar of an ebike connects to this platform via 5G. Unlike GPS, this cellular network more accurately measures the location and speed of the bicycle. When the module detects that you are approaching a busy zone, alerts will pop up onscreen.

The alerts come in two forms: nudges and nannies. Nudges are notifications that warn you of potential dangers ahead. “Nanny” mode only comes into play if the rider doesn’t slow down. Then the module sends a signal to limit the motor, or cut it entirely. This makes it more difficult for the rider to maintain the same speed.