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Chinese firm unveils electric scooters that can drive themselves to charging stations

James Cook
Ninebot president Wang Ye riding one of the firm's new KickScooter T60 scooters - REUTERS

China's Ninebot has unveiled new electric scooters which can autonomously drive themselves to charging points.

The business said that it plans to release its new KickScooter T60 next year to scooter rental firms, such as existing Ninebot customers Bird and Lime, allowing customers to rent the vehicles by the minute through an app.

Ninebot’s new scooters can guide themselves to charging points by connecting to the internet and locating nearby stations.

Scooter firms currently employ contractors to collect the devices overnight in order to charge and repair them. Fleets of autonomous scooters could remove this cost, making it more profitable to operate scooters in cities around the world.

The KickScooter T60 will be substantially more expensive than Ninebot’s current electric scooters, however.

Ninebot said it plans to sell the scooters for around $1,400 (£1,152), a significant increase on the $100 to $300 price of its standard scooters.

Gao Lufeng, Ninebot’s chief executive, told Reuters that “I believe scooters will replace bicycles as the prime solution for micro-mobility. It’s human nature to save energy when commuting.”

The Telegraph reported earlier this year that Uber was planning to hire engineers to build its own self-driving scooters and bicycles.

Uber announced in January that it had created a “micromobility robotics” team to work on the project. The company said on a hiring page for the division that it plans to “improve safety, rider experience, and operational efficiency of our shared electric scooters and bicycles through the application of sensing and robotics technologies.”

Ninebot merged with American transport firm Segway in 2015, and has since applied to list its shares on China’s Nasdaq-style stock market for technology firms.

The business hopes to float on the Shanghai stock exchange Star Market, which opened in July with 25 Chinese technology stocks listed.