Ford's e-scooter company Spin is working with multiple UK universities with £100,000 in funding to research safety, rider behaviour and transport integration.
The Micromobility Research Fund will help fund studies to look at where e-scooter users ride most often and why, to see how often safety incidents occur and what factors can impact safety for users and non-users.
Preparation for the first piece of research is under way in Milton Keynes - with potential to extend it to other cities, including London once the e-scooter trial kicks off in the capital.
Josh Johnson, Spin public policy manager, said: “The willingness to share independent research and learnings about the adoption of e-scooters with key stakeholders has become less of a priority for operators and this needs to change.
“Spin is committed to improving and advancing micromobility policy frameworks globally in the markets we operate in.
“These studies will give everyone fresh and actionable insights.
“We look forward to sharing best practices with stakeholders in the UK and beyond around how to best integrate e-scooters into local transport networks while maximising safety of all road users and provide communities with a green, fun and socially-distanced way to travel.”
The Milton Keynes study will include consumer survey data and on-street AI and IoT sensor data of e-scooter interactions with pedestrians, cyclists and cars.
The sensor data will be captured by Vivacity Lab’s sensors that are installed in Milton Keynes.
The researchers will have access to anonymised e-scooter movement data (GPS) as well.
Vivacity’s roadside sensors employ machine learning algorithms to detect near-miss incidents and are able to analyse movement patterns of vulnerable road-users such as cyclists and pedestrians, as well as non-connected vehicles.
All data shared by the sensors is anonymised with video feeds discarded at source.
The research may include outputs such as a mapping of “safe routes” based on riding patterns and user feedback, and recommendations on how local authorities and operators could encourage riders towards a safer use of e-scooters.
Recommendations may also include infrastructure improvements or other policy changes to enhance roadway safety for all users.
"...E-scooters will require a rethink from everyone..."
Brian Matthews, head of transport innovation, Milton Keynes Council, said: “Ultimately, the point of introducing e-scooter schemes is to advance our society and to bring a greater benefit to all, not just to the e-scooter riders and the service providers but to all who live in our towns and cities.
“Just as with many new services, this will require a rethink from everyone, including the general public and stakeholders and the path may not always be straightforward.
Roger Woodman, assistant professor of human factors, at the University of Warwick, said he is confident that building a strong body of independent research will allow policy makers, e-scooter advocates and sceptics to advance discussion and put forward legislation that best supports everyone.
Spin will share its findings with the Department for Transport (DfT).
Additional studies will look to find answers to questions such as:
- What factors influence people’s willingness to try e-scooters for the first time and then to become a regular user?
- How do people integrate their e-scooter rides into a multi-modal journey, if at all?
- What travel modes are people shifting from, if any, when they choose to ride a scooter?
- Outcomes and relevant factors which influence safe use of e-scooters
- What insights can be derived from demographic data and its relation to frequency of use?
- How do e-scooter demo days affect the general public’s acceptance of this new means of transport?
- In times when participating in physical events are limited, do digital learning materials and virtual safety training events have similar effects as joining in-person riding test tracks?
- How can e-scooters be made more appealing to a more diverse population?
Spin Micromobility Research Fund- confirmed UK university partners:
- Rachel Aldred, Professor of Transport and Director of the University's Active Travel Academy, University of Westminster
- Elisabetta Cherchi, Professor of Transport, University of Newcastle
- Jonas De Vos, Assistant Professor (lecturer) of Transport Planning, University College London
- Susan Grant-Muller, Chair in Technology and Informatics, University of Leeds
- Robin Hickman, Professor of Transport and City Planning, University College London
- Zia Wadud, Associate Professor in Transport and Energy Interactions, University of Leeds
- Roger Woodman, Assistant Professor of Human Factors, University of Warwick