UCL and London’s shared e-scooter operators are developing a new ‘universal sound’ to alert pedestrians and other road users of their approach.
UCL’s specialist Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL), together with Dott, Lime and Tier in an approach endorsed by Transport for London (TfL).
Development of the sound at PEARL will kick off next month and the sound will be trialled in London, with the aim to inform an industry standard, for operators across the UK to adopt.
The joint initiative follows extended engagement with disability experts and access consultants, including Transport for All, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Royal National Institute of Blind people.
The sound will take into account the needs of individuals including those with sight loss, hearing loss and neurodiverse conditions.
It will be ethically tested at the PEARL research facility, which can create different city environments, before testing on the street, to ensure it works for individuals in real-world settings.
A huge scientific challenge
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.
“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.”
Joanna Wootten, chair of TfL’s Independent Disability Advisory Group, welcomed the work being done on the project and said the group is “breaking new ground” where there are currently no standards or regulations in place for the sound of e-scooters.