The Future is Now: Andrew Fleury Of Luna On How On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up Micromobility
Always give it your best. Once you have done that and made a clean and honest effort, you will always be able to stand over and be proud of your work.
As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Fleury, CEO & Co-Founder, Luna, a Computer Vision micromobility startup.
Andrew has spent the last two decades exclusively dedicated to the fields of telematics, fleet management and intelligent vehicles. In 2020, he co-founded Luna with the mission of applying AI to solve the common challenges facing the wider scale adoption of shared micromobility — namely sidewalk riding, collisions and bad parking. The company has since signed partnership deals with some of the world’s leading shared micromobility operators. The company’s computer vision-based tech provides irrefutable visual proof to shared e-scooter operators and city authorities that scooters are being ridden and parked in a safe way. The solution also generates valuable and actionable data insights for cities and is therefore valuable from a variety of smart city applications.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
So I’ve actually been in the field of telematics and smart vehicles for the past 15 years through the first company I co-founded, which provides fleet management technology for specialised vehicles such as baggage carriers at airports. When e-scooters had their first heyday back in 2019, we started to see that many of the well-publicised safety issues experienced by shared e-scooters could be resolved using the kinds of technologies we had created. At that point we were still in the wild west era of shared e-scooters and though we are now dealing with a much more mature market, the same three challenges remain: sidewalk riding, collisions and poor parking. All of these issues are caused by human behaviour but can be vastly improved with much more accurate positioning technology to better govern shared fleets. To date, many scooter operators still rely on GPS, which for cars is sufficiently accurate, however for scooters in an urban setting with tall buildings, this just isn’t reliable enough — due to what’s known as the Urban Canyon Effect. We started to realise that a better way to locate scooters would actually be ground-based, camera technology — relying on visual feedback on a scooter’s location, rather than just a dot on a map. Overlaying these smart cameras with machine learning algorithms, enables a scooter — or indeed e-bike — to be “cognisant” of its environment. Our algorithms can tell if a scooter or bike is mounted on a road, or on a sidewalk (footpath), or if it is about to collide with a pedestrian, or object. How this is subsequently handled then depends on an operator’s or city’s preference. So, for example, they may decide that when their scooters mount a footpath, that they immediately beep and automatically come to a stop. In this scenario, our device communicates with the scooter to do just that. An alternative mode of deterrence might include an email or text to the errant rider warning them to stop footpath riding, or issuing a fine. Luna is also cognisant of impending collisions and can again be trained by the operator to automatically stop the scooter, or bike, while also emitting an automatic bell to warn the pedestrian.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
We had been working on some specific positioning technology for a customer in a completely different field through my other company. One day, I spotted yet another headline on a shared e-scooter incident. Myself and some colleagues grabbed a coffee and just started chatting and hypothesising about how better situational awareness for scooters could help the operator take back control. Soon after we founded Luna and the rest as they say is history.
I’ve always been keen on shared scooters, or indeed any mode of green transport that would help reduce the number of cars in our cities. Most cities were built for cars. Thankfully, now we are seeing an albeit slow move towards pedestrianisation. Shared bikes have already had a big role to play in this and I believe e-scooters and e-bikes — and whatever LEVs come next, will too. When it comes to perfecting our technology, I always try to remain focussed on that goal — helping these new modes of transport become safe and confidently accepted by cities, so that they can get on with the task of getting the cars out, while still providing viable and trusted means of urban mobility.
Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
When I explain the kind of algorithms we’ve produced, I always use the analogy of an album. Sidewalk riding detection and object/pedestrian detection are like our first hit tracks. As computer vision becomes more mainstream and in more and more cities, we will become aware of new use cases requiring different algorithms. The possibilities with this kind of technology are huge from a city management, or smart city perspective. The data that is captured (at the Edge) can be used to improve virtually everything in a city environment from tracking critical events such as road infrastructure issues, flooding or footpath clutter. Once enough e-scooters are fitted with Luna devices, it essentially converts the fleet into an invaluable sensor network — every ride will help city authorities learn and better understand and therefore more easily manage important issues affecting the flow of transport.
How do you think this might change the world?
Our goal is to make micromobility safer not just for riders, but also pedestrians, so that city authorities can move ahead with their sustainable transport plans. There are many markets where e-scooters are still awaiting legislation. Without adopting and scaling newer modes of transport, we run the risk of continuing down the same route of car dependency. Scooters and bikes serve a hugely important role to fill the gaps in a public transport network. Such gaps encourage car usage. According to Ireland’s National Transport Authority for example, half of every short trip (under 2km) is made by car. In Dublin, 194.4 million short journeys (under 5km) are driven each year. If 80% of these short trips were undertaken on foot, by bike or scooter it could save approximately 64,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks of this technology that people should think more deeply about?
When people think about smart cameras, they often think about data privacy. We did too… As a European startup, we were especially mindful that this would be a hugely important area for us to consider right from the start. With this in mind, faces and licence plates are blurred at the Edge — meaning that no-one ever can ever access this data at any point. These days high-end cars are covered in cameras, as are buses and other modes of public transport etc. However, we went down the route of ensuring anonymity for those pedestrians who come into the line of travel of our devices.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Maybe not necessarily a tipping point but it’s always been a motivation for us when we read about scooters being removed from cities due to the challenges we solve. Most of all it’s of course also extremely troubling to read about fatalities. We are fully adamant that LEVs play a central role in a car-free future — but to do this they require the kind of technology that can take into account and counteract poor human decisions or behavior. Think of the car — many high-end cars now have ADAS systems to help ensure a safer driver experience. Our technology has been coined as ARAS (Advanced Rider Assistance Systems) — essentially sharing many of the same features such as pedestrian detection/avoidance, lane detection, traffic sign recognition, automatic emergency braking.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Though this tech is emergent, it is very quickly gaining recent ground right across the industry. So thankfully the addressable market is already there and growing fast. Our first generation device can be simply fitted to the front of a scooter or bike and provides a quick plug-and-play solution for operators. This was welcomed by the industry as it provided a cost effective means for operators to get accustomed to this technology and helped them impress cities in their tender submissions. Now that this technology has been validated and adopted in the industry, our next gen products will be more integrated, enabling us to remain focussed on our core strengths in terms of the actual software. We are in the process of raising capital to support the production of this next range.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We were lucky from the early days to have excellent PR support from an agency here in Ireland, called Beachhut. They were behind us from the early days and helped us deliver our message to the industry. The media coverage we received really opened many doors for us along the way and was key to our success.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The list is so long that it’s impossible to choose one person. Business is a team sport. We have our own team, our mentors, our investors. Our families play a big part too — we need their help and support to do what we do. We have also been lucky to get support from our customers. I love the micromobility industry — it’s a proper community. I find almost everyone is genuinely interested in changing how we move in cities — we are all pretty much pushing in the same direction. This common goal of removing and reducing cars in cities brings collaborative and fraternal elements that I think are quite unique.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Again, here our aspiration is that our technology helps make e-scooters and e-bikes safer so that micromobility industry can scale. The issues faced by e-scooters have held the industry back for quite a while — if computer vision can fix these issues, then the industry will be in a stronger position to deliver on its mission of a car-free future for our cities. Also, as of today when we think of, micromobility, we think largely of e-bikes and e-scooters, but the future of how we travel in cities depends on the ingenuity of the industry, so it is important that it survives and thrives, so that we can benefit from newer modes of transport as they come online.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I think it doesn’t help to dwell on mistakes and missed opportunities, instead look forward. Three pieces of advice that I like:
- Always give it your best. Once you have done that and made a clean and honest effort, you will always be able to stand over and be proud of your work.
- Assuming you did the first one (tried your best), try to improve for the next time and develop yourself. You can get dramatically better at almost anything if you really put your mind to it.
- Just keep going — that’s really the secret of life, just keep it moving forward, into the wind, against the wind and even in a cross wind — just keep going!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It’s not a new one, but what motivates us all as a team is a car-free future. The benefits are well-known. Even aside from the environmental aspects, there is the potential to transform how we interact with our cities, urban communities and businesses, as well as the health and societal benefits. While car-independence may look a long while off for many cities yet, it’s important to consider and start planning now for a successful integration of climate supportive modes of transport — especially micromobility. Car-free is at the heart of everything we do at Luna — seeing cities write computer vision into their RFPs for micromobility was something I didn’t think I’d see when we set off on this journey. Seeing that our tech is having a real impact on the wider-scale implementation of e-scooters has been a huge motivation moment for me and the team.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
According to Soccrates, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”. This is relevant to what we do in so many ways. To deliver car-free, the aim should not just be fighting to ensure the removal of cars. This only leaves commuters short-changed in terms of how they get from point A to B on a Monday morning. The aim istead should of course be looking into the future and aiming to deliver now the kinds of solutions that will start to reduce our dependency. It’s important to not just focus on removing cars, but to provide amenable alternatives.
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
We are pioneers in a fast growth industry. When we started out in 2019, the micromobility software technology was essentially quite niche. BIS Research recently stated that the IoT solutions for micromobility market is now projected to reach $26.26 billion in terms of revenue by 2031. Computer vision for micromobility has captured recent headlines again with Lime announcing its own solution, while cities such as Chicago recently added it to its RFP — so demand for this technology is going to massively accelerate and we feel the next year will be particularly exciting.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Please come say hi on Twitter @luna_systems_
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
About The Interviewer: David Leichner is a veteran of the Israeli high-tech industry with significant experience in the areas of cyber and security, enterprise software and communications. At Cybellum, a leading provider of Product Security Lifecycle Management, David is responsible for creating and executing the marketing strategy and managing the global marketing team that forms the foundation for Cybellum’s product and market penetration. Prior to Cybellum, David was CMO at SQream and VP Sales and Marketing at endpoint protection vendor, Cynet. David is the Chairman of the Friends of Israel and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Jerusalem Technology College. He holds a BA in Information Systems Management and an MBA in International Business from the City University of New York.