When I tell people that I work in the e-scooter industry, I typically hear one of two reactions:
- “Oh, I love the scooters! I just rode one last week!”
- “Ugh, those things? What a menace! One of them nearly ran into me the other day.”
I’m used to hearing strong opinions about scooters — both for and against. In Washington, D.C. where I live, a magazine even gave scooters an award for “Best Public Nuisance,” saying that scooters annoy some but “do solve a last-mile problem, and if that means less traffic, lower demand on Lyft, or revitalized neighborhoods thanks to increased accessibility, then they’re a nuisance worth abiding.” Um, thanks? I think?
I believe that scooters are a valuable new alternative for helping people get around and enjoy our cities. But in working with cities around the country to establish regulations for scooters and make scooters a reliable transportation option, I’ve noticed that cities’ relationships with scooters follow a predictable pattern. It’s a cycle that experts recognized almost a quarter century ago.
Gartner’s Hype Cycle
Back in 1995, the Gartner consulting firm released its first “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies,” illustrating the four phases that all new technologies progress through:
- First, a “technology trigger” where an innovation or product combination creates a new product category;
- Second, a “peak of inflated expectations” where the new technology is hyped as a solution to war, famine, loneliness or disease;
- Third, a “trough of disillusionment,” when the new technology fails to meet those lofty expectations, and the new product may even be abused or have downsides;
- Fourth, the “slope of enlightenment,” where the product’s upsides are reasonably weighed against its downsides; and
- Finally, the “plateau of productivity,” when the new technology finds its most valuable use in business and society, and its downsides are managed.
This is what that very first Hype Cycle looked like, with Gartner capturing where different technologies were in their evolutions in 1995: