Nearly all of the scooters belonging to Dutch micromobility company GO Sharing, which has been operating in Brussels for about five months, have been stolen by young people who figured out how to bypass the renting system.
The culprits are largely young Brussels residents, SudPresse reports, some of whom advertise crash courses on how to steal the scooters on social media.
“20 euros = free rides on GO scooters every day,” promises one such advertisement on a social network.
Last weekend in the municipalities of Uccle, Watermael-Boitsfort and Auderghem, about 10 young Brussels residents, many of them minors, were joyriding on stolen electric scooters from GO Sharing.
“The youngest was a 13-year-old,” a police spokesperson confirmed. “Between Sunday and Monday, we intercepted about ten young people who were playing with these rentable electric scooters in the commune of Uccle. They had come here in small groups to find them.”
Police suspect that all of the young people had come in response to advertisements on social media promising to teach them how to steal the scooters.
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They drive the electric scooters until the batteries are empty and then abandon them because they don't know how to recharge them.
One of the peculiarities that stakeholders noticed is that by bypassing the rental system, the headlights of the electric scooters do not light up anymore, which is particularly dangerous at night.
Software update to improve security
“I'm not going to explain in detail how they do it, because I don't want more people to know how to do it, but we do have this problem – people are stealing our vehicles, driving around in them and then abandoning them,” said the Belgian manager of Go Sharing, Yessin Aattache.
“We haven’t lost many, but they have damaged a lot of them.”
While Aattache confirmed the problem, he said the company has since found a solution to prevent people from bypassing the rental system.
“It's important for us to send the message that we have already found a solution. All our vehicles are going to receive an update that will ensure that they will no longer know how to do it,” he said.
“We still have to still have to fix them all, which will take a lot of time because they break them quite a bit. It takes a few hours per vehicle, so we're in for weeks of work to have our fleet available for customers again.”
In terms of the number of scooters that have been vandalised, Aattache said that while they don’t yet have exact figures, “I can say it is the majority of our fleet.”
Disappointed and discouraged
“We have customers who drive our vehicles every day, who rely on our service to get around Brussels, and these people are affected by this problem because we don't have many active vehicles left.”
Aattache expressed disappointment in how the scooters are being treated, given the company’s mission to improve the air quality in cities by offering people alternatives to polluting motor vehicles.
“We are trying to make a social change in our city, and then we don't have our active vehicles anymore because of people who decided to sabotage our vehicles,” Aattache said.
“This week, there are hundreds of customers who have not been able to get around as they used to do with our vehicles.”