e scooter

Four years ago, Bird Rides Inc. boldly began parking its first-generation e-scooters on the sidewalks of Santa Monica even though it lacked the proper permits.

What started as a novelty has now become a $800-billion worldwide business, with the devices now ubiquitous throughout the world. The scooters also became one of the most visible symbols of Santa Monica's booming and carefree tech scene, with top VCs scootering into the office with the ocean air blowing through their hair.

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Unagi, the trendy Oakland e-scooter startup that has drawn fawning comparisons to Apple and Tesla, is expanding its subscription service to a broader swath of Los Angeles and New York, along with six other cities.

Up until last year, the sleek scooters were only available to those who shelled out $990 to purchase one, but COVID accelerated the company's plans to launch a subscription service, which it started testing in parts of L.A. and New York last summer.

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On a recent crisp winter morning outside an empty office park in the San Fernando Valley, there were no workers to be seen. That is unless one counts the cooler-sized delivery robot slowly whirring down the sidewalk as Felipe Chavez, founder and CEO of Kiwibot, nervously watched to make sure the droid did not veer of course.

Just as no one now thinks twice about seeing e-scooters that were non-existent before late 2017, the sight of a robot ferrying salads, pizza, or groceries could become common on Los Angeles sidewalks before this year is over.

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