How a Chinese robotics company made Segway (almost) cool

THE TESTERS zip past boxes of desiccants, packing crates and mounds of small rubber wheels, wearing helmets and pads on their knees and elbows. They drive the latest batch of electric kick-scooters past the assembly lines and into a pen surrounded by protective nets and multicoloured bunting, over speed bumps and cobblestones, down steps and up ramps. One rider tests around 450 e-scooters a day.

Once each has clocked up 1km doing laps of the 1,200-worker factory in Changzhou, a city in Jiangsu province, they are shipped. On a recent visit three models, each with small customisations, rolled off conveyor belts. One was for Xiaomi, a domestic maker of smartphones and gadgets. The two others were for Bird, an American app-based rental service for scooters which was valued in June at $2bn; and Grin, a new scooter-sharing startup in Mexico. Soon production will begin on a similar fleet for SEAT, a Spanish car company.

Ninebot, which owns the factory, claims to have made over nine-tenths of the e-...



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