Experts at UCL’s Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) are working with London e-scooter operators to develop a universal sound to alert road-users of their approach.
The team will work with e-scooter operators TIER, Lime and Dott, to create a sound that will help all road-users, particularly those with sight loss, hearing loss and neurodiverse conditions, to identify any rental e-scooter. After being developed and tested in London, the sound will be used in other cities around the UK and beyond.
E-scooters have become a popular mode of transport in recent years. However, between June 2020 and June 2021 they were involved in 882 accidents, resulting in 931 casualties. As well as e-scooter users, pedestrians and pedal cyclists were the most likely to be injured in accidents. Half (496) of all e-scooter casualties were involved in accidents in London.
The project, an industry first, will build on existing work by the three e-scooter operators. It follows engagement with disability experts and access consultants including Transport for All, the Thomas Pocklington Trust and the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Professor Nick Tyler, Director, UCL PEARL, said: "This is an exciting project to work on to ensure that people with a range of different capabilities can know when an e-scooter is nearby and how it is moving, enabling them to comfortably and safely move around the urban environment."
Following consultations, the sound will be developed and ethically tested at PEARL, where experts can create different city environments, before being tested on roads ahead of attaining an industry standard for roll out.
Professor Tyler continued: "Through studying how the human hearing system has evolved, we can create sounds for e-scooters that are detectable without adding more noise to the environment. We plan to test a range of combinations of sounds and environments at UCL PEARL with people who are less likely to detect e-scooters nearby, so that we create a sound that works for all. It is a huge scientific challenge, but one that will enable everyone to feel comfortable with this new form of micro-mobility that is quickly growing in popularity."
Fred Jones, Vice President and Regional General Manager of TIER, said: "Safety is at the heart of everything we do at TIER, and so we are proud to have initiated and funded this project to develop an inclusive and effective sound for e-scooters. TIER will license the use of this sound for free to the benefit of other operators in our industry, and the residents of the cities in which they serve. Working with experts at UCL to develop an inclusive sound for e-scooters will be crucial to protecting pedestrians and road users potentially made vulnerable through the introduction of this new transport mode to the UK."
UCL Consultants coordinated the contract between TIER Mobility and UCL PEARL.