A vehicle-sharing startup is essentially terrorizing civilians in cities around the country by having its scooters yell “unlock me to ride me, or I’ll call the police” when touched, The Guardian reported Thursday.
The unsettling feature — which has reportedly been heard in cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Denver — is an apparent attempt by LimeBike to deter people from trying to use the scooter without downloading its app and paying. But it’s not just direct threats, as another feature accompanies the rides with blaring robot noises, reportedly causing literal and figurative headaches.
The first component is especially weird because it will abrasively shout the statement after less than a minute of human engagement, and even repeat after a certain time. Vehicle-sharing novices (presumably the majority of the population) and the older generations understandably don’t know how to operate the technology that allows access to its use.
These specific scooters only add to the already intense annoyance California residents and regulators have with such conveyances.
Authorities in San Francisco have confiscated hundreds of the vehicles because there is an excessive amount littered throughout the city and none were given official permission by the city government. Not before locals vandalized some by smearing feces on the base and cutting the technical cables, however.
And the hatred of these vehicles could be conflated with a general, seemingly growing negative sentiment against tech companies both big and small in the larger area of Silicon Valley. Activists trying to vouch for the homeless, portions of which have been displaced by authorities, took some of the much-loathed scooters May 31 and placed them in the streets during the morning commute to block traffic and stop buses that shuttle employees of companies like Google to their offices. (RELATED: Reported Attacks On Silicon Valley Prompt Google, Apple Shuttle Buses To Reroute)
“Techsploitation is toxic,” read one of the protester’s banners, according to USA Today. Another placed an orange smoke grenade on top of the obstructive pile of scooters.
— Joe Fitz Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) May 31, 2018
But the howling scooters from LimeBike add another element to the disruption; they aren’t just a disturbance of city space, they’re also an audio nuisance.
“Oh my God,” Oakland councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said after watching a video of a scooter screaming in a public plaza, according to The Guardian. “Having a random voice yelling out, ‘I’m going to call the police on you,’ it’s really scary.”
She said it might even trigger already-stoked fears of law enforcement involvement in mundane situations.
“This is not only an annoying noise, this is a threat to people,” Kaplan continued. “For black people, that can really be experienced as a death threat.”
It’s still not clear if the feature is intended to be cheeky — perhaps to attract attention and thus publicity — or a serious effort to combat free riders.
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