The University College of London (UCL) has teamed up with London’s electric scooter operators Tier, Lime and Dott to develop a ‘universal sound’ for rental e-scooters to alert pedestrians and other roads users of their approach.
This aims to fix the main complaint people have with the electric scooters currently being used on the pavements around the UK and could help to improve safety across the entire electric scooter industry, helping pedestrians, particularly those with sight loss, detect when an e-scooter is approaching.
The main question we have is whether this sound will also be added to electric scooters that people purchase, like those included in our best electric scooter guide.
The research is being led by UCL's specialist Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) and will begin next month.
The universal sound developed will be used across all operators and electric scooter models, which should make identifying the sound easier. This approach is endorsed by TfL.
The sound will take into account a number of individuals needs, including those with sight loss, hearing loss and neurodiverse conditions. It will be tested at the PEARL research facility, which can create different city environments, before being tested on public roads and pavements. This will ensure it works for people in a real-world setting before it gets fully rolled out.
It's expected that the sound will start to be tested by operators in London this year, eventually attaining an industry standard and ultimately scaling up to other cities in the UK and beyond.
The joint initiative is an e-scooter industry first and follows extended engagement with disability experts, including Transport for All, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Professor Nick Tyler, Director, UCL PEARL said:
'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.'
Personally, I hope this will also help move electric scooters along the path to becoming legal, as I think they're a convenient and environmentally friendly way to get around a city.
If you could choose the sound for an electric scooter, what would it sound like? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.