The scooter company Lime is warning users of a safety issue where some of its vehicles’ front wheels suddenly lock, a problem that has caused crashes and injured riders. The company says it is updating the scooter software to fix the issue, but would not reveal whether it has caused problems in Atlanta.
“Use extra caution in the next few days while we issue the final firmware update — especially when riding downhill,” Lime warned in a Feb. 23 blog post. “Always stay in full control of your scooter and don’t go full speed while riding downhill.”
Scooters placed on public streets by Lime and rival company Bird have been both popular and controversial. The city of Atlanta recently passed a package of rules to legalize and regulate the scooters. The city of Brookhaven has been considering similar ordinance.
Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook, who represents Buckhead’s District 7, was the only member to vote against legalization, saying the vehicles are fundamentally unsafe. He says the wheel-locking reports emphasize his concerns.
“I voted against the ordinance legalizing the use of scooters for a couple of reasons, including the likely inability of the city to meaningfully enforce the ordinance, and the kind of rise in accidents and injuries that other cities have experienced,” Shook said in an email. “The sooner the law is repealed, the safer we’ll all be.”
In its blog post, Lime said the problem is a software bug that, in situations variously described as “rare” and “very rare” without specific numbers, can “cause sudden excessive braking during use.” The problem usually happens when the rider is going “downhill at top speed while hitting a pothole or other obstacle…,” the post says.
“While this issue has affected less than 0.0045 percent of all Lime rides, some riders have been injured, and, although most have been bumps and bruises, any injury is one too many,” the post says.
Some fixes have already been made, “which immediately resulted in a material reduction of occurrences,” Lime says, and a final update will be completed “shortly.”
While the post says that Lime is “committed to being transparent with our riders and with the community,” spokesperson Alex Youn would not answer questions about the number of such software problems and injuries in Atlanta, when the final fix will be complete, and whether an independent organization is reviewing the solution. Youn did not respond when asked why Lime would not release that information.
The rival company Bird is not having similar braking issues or other accident-causing firmware issues, according to a source close to the matter.
The city of Atlanta did not have immediate comment.
The Washington Post recently reported on safety issues with Lime’s scooters, including one model that sometimes broke apart during use.
According to media reports, a man in Austin, Texas, is suing Lime for an injury allegedly caused by the sudden braking issue, and officials in Auckland, New Zealand say Lime told them of 92 unexpected braking incidents in their city, of which 30 caused injuries.
Update: This story has been updated with information about Bird scooters.