Safety through sound for micromobility

February 10, 2022


The rise of both Ebikes and Escooters has led to disability charities asking what can be done to provide awareness of the these micromobility vehicles when ridden. With plenty of them being riden on pavements and pedestrian areas.

Experts at UCL’s Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) are working with London e-scooter operators to develop a universal sound to alert others for their location. This is especially important for the blind community.

The three London operators Tier, Lime and Dott have teamed up with the university to come up with a universal sound. That can then be added to the Escooters and with it the awareness of the escooters incoming.

Therd has been numerous debates in House of Lords around Escooter safety. including a recent debate and questions.

View the Hansard contribution by Baroness Randerson (LD) on Thursday 22 April 2021

'My Lords, will the Minister undertake to introduce lessons on the safe use of electric scooters as part of road safety education in schools, when the Government get to the point of making decisions on how they should be operated in the future? Can she also undertake that charities representing the disabled will be fully consulted before the Government make final decisions?'

The background of accidents:

June 2020 and June 2021 escooter were involved in 882 accidents with half (496) of all e-scooter casualties were involved in accidents in London.

This resulted in 931 casualties. Along with the rider, pedestrians and pedal cyclists were the most likely to be injured in accidents with escooters.

The Disability access consultants Transport for All, the Thomas Pocklington Trust and the Royal National Institute of Blind People all came together for this project.

Professor Nick Tyler, Director, UCL PEARL, the result centre 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.”

While Professor Nick was keen to press that there is a wide variation of city soundscapes and they all need to be tested ahead of attaining an industry standard for roll out.

Micromobility sound

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.” Micromobility Sound Escooters disability