A Canadian startup calls on ID verification for help getting rolling
A host of companies worldwide are now battling over the burgeoning “last-mile” transportation market, providing easy-to-rent, mobile-app-accessible bikes and scooters to the public. As they roll out their business models, they are increasingly faced with emerging regulations designed to ensure the safety of customers and the public. These requirements, while making good sense, can create headaches for micro-mobility providers as they try to keep their ride-renting prices low and their companies growing.
Roll Technologies, founded in Canada two years ago, encountered this phenomenon almost immediately after opening for business in three mid-sized cities in two of the nation’s westernmost provinces. The company’s rollout faced stringent safety requirements from local and provincial governments—so much so that two out of four last-mile-transport companies opted out of the market in one city.
Legislators worried that underage riders would endanger themselves and others by riding motorized scooters or bikes through city. Concerns about people driving on sidewalks or without helmets required Roll to develop solutions to make riding safer--and keep the company within the good graces of governments.
In July 2021, the City Council in Kelowna made verifying the age of Roll riders mandatory. To ensure that its riders are 16 years of age or older, and to encourage those of all ages to verify that they are wearing helmets, Roll turned to Berbix and its cutting-edge, mobile ID-verification system.
“We were worried that our permits might be cancelled if we didn’t put a strong solution in place,” says Arda Erturk, the company’s co-founder and chief communications officer.
“Roll’s goal is to grow responsibly, in conjunction with the rules of local governments and community leaders. As the industry is becoming more competitive, offering ID verification makes our proposal stronger.” -Arda Erturk
As the company, which recently expanded to a fourth city, looks to crack the markets in Canada’s largest cities, it is relying on Berbix to help allay any concerns municipalities and provinces might have regarding the identities of scooter renters.
Offering rides on high-quality, motorized bikes and scooters developed by University of Toronto technologists, Roll sells its vehicles at cost to city partners who manage them. It then works to keep its service fees reasonable. Roll rentals are aimed at commuters looking to avoid wait times for public transit or ride-sharing services, college students who need to quickly navigate their way around campus, or tourists hoping to see more sights than they could if they were walking.
Currently, the company—valued at between $15 million and $30 million U.S.--charges each rider $1 to unlock a two-wheeler, and 35 cents per minute of riding. It also offers daily, weekly, and monthly subscription passes that make rides more affordable.
The Berbix ID system fits well within Roll’s budget, Erturk says, while helping it expand its locations and customer base.
Achieving a high level of mandated public safety is good for business, he adds. Doing so helps the company’s reputation and safety record. In the City of Kelowna, Berbix’s role in fostering a safe riding environment became apparent immediately, after a brief installation process instigated this summer. City officials, citing new regulations, had made it clear that Roll would not be able to begin operating until it could guarantee that riders were 16 or older.
“Implementation took only a week. The process was smooth, seamless. This helped us to realize how quickly we can respond to requests from cities with the right partner.” - Arda Erturk
That quick response from Berbix got Roll’s business moving from zero kilometers per hour to 60. During the first weekend of July—a holiday in Canada—more than 3,000 Roll new users took advantage of the Berbix method to get rolling, taking selfies and scanning their driver’s licenses to verify their identity on their mobile devices. More than 7,000 riders were verified during the entire month.
A vast majority of Roll customers have been able to execute the ID check and get rolling almost instantly. Only a handful, faced with glitches with their ID cards, were forced to use a backup method before mounting their vehicles.
“We provide flexibility to our riders,” Erturk says. “We allow either a full ID scan, a barcode scan, or manual entry. We did a backup barcode scan to lighten the burden on users.” As of August, almost all of Roll’s customers—99.8 percent—were able to quickly scan in their information digitally for verification because of the Berbix app.
All that protection makes a snug fit for Roll’s business proposition. The company is trying to demonstrate that its model works safely and profitably in small and mid-sized cities—something that larger scooter-share companies are having a hard time achieving—so that it can make itself more attractive to customers and governments in more populated areas.
“Berbix is essential as we look to grow.” -Arda Erturk
“For the bigger cities, having the Berbix system in our proposals definitely helps us. When we look at a city like Toronto, they need to have some sort of measure that would make sure we prevent underage riding. Other companies also use ID verification. But if we can show those cities that we’re capable of reducing underage riders with the help of Berbix, then we’ll gain a solid advantage.”