London e-scooter operators have combined efforts to develop a new ‘universal sound,’ which alerts pedestrians to approaching scooters.
With the help of researchers from University College London, the universal sound will eventually be installed on Tier, Lime and Dott shared machines in the hopes of improving safety for pedestrians, particularly people with sight loss.
Work on developing the sound will begin next month and it will then be trialled in London, in the hopes of informing an industry standard to be rolled out across the UK.
Professor Nick Tyler, director of UCL’s Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (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. 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.”
The joint initiative for the universal sound follows advice from disability and access experts, including Transport for All, Thomas Pocklington Trust, and the Royal National Institute for Blind People, and will “take into account the needs of individuals including those with sight loss, hearing loss and neurodiverse conditions.” It will then be ethically tested at the PEARL research facility.
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.
“We are really excited to collaborate with Lime and Dott on this initiative and to deliver an inclusive e-scooter service in London, but we don’t want to stop there. At Tier we believe the adoption of a universal sound for all e-scooters is crucial to our ambition of transforming cities around the world and raising safety standards across the whole e-scooter sector. That’s why we’re going to lead the charge for a universal sound for e-scooters, starting here in the UK.”
Duncan Robertson, UK and Ireland general manager at Dott, said: “As we work to offer more sustainable transport for people to get around their cities, it’s crucial that we consider the needs of riders and non-riders alike. This project builds upon our existing research with the University of Salford to refine audible options and test in a virtual environment. By working with our partner operators, we are bringing together our collective insights to help find a solution which we hope will become consistent across the industry, and therefore as simple as possible for other road users and pedestrians to understand.”