UCL and London e-scooter operators team up to research ‘universal sound’ for e-scooters in the capital
January 27, 2022
- UCL’s world-leading research facility PEARL will work with operators to research and develop an inclusive sound for e-scooters to alert pedestrians of their approach
- The sound will be developed for initial use on TIER, Lime and Dott e-scooters with the research supported by TfL, TfL’s Independent Disability Advisory Group and organisations including Thomas Pocklington Trust
- Building on work undertaken by all three operators, 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
Friday 28th January, London – UCL’s specialist Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL), together with London’s e-scooter operators TIER, Lime and Dott, have today announced that they are partnering to research and develop a ‘universal sound’ for rental e-scooters to alert pedestrians and other roads users of their approach.
Building on existing work by all three operators, the sound will be developed in London, kicking off next month, in an approach endorsed by TfL. London’s e-scooter operators have the joint ambition of developing and trialling a universal sound that could help improve safety across the entire e-scooter industry, helping road users and particularly people with sight loss to identify a rental e-scooter regardless of its operator or make. Research is expected to produce a sound which can be tested by operators in London this year, attaining an industry standard and ultimately scaling up to other cities in the UK and beyond.
The joint initiative is an industry first and 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.
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.”
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, UKI 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.”
Alan Clarke, Sr Director of Policy at Lime, said:
“Lime is proud to be leading the way in developing e-scooter services which are safer, more accessible and better integrated with other users of urban space. This project builds on our existing work with Lime’s independent disability advisory board to research how audio-alerts can improve the safe integration of e-scooters into cities. As a business operating across five continents, Lime is uniquely placed to bring together work happening around the world to design e-scooter services which are more inclusive. We look forward to feeding outcomes from this project into that global effort, as well as here in the UK.”
Dr Antonio J Torija Martinez, Principal Investigator at the University of Salford’s ARC said:
“Sustainable and inclusive micro-mobility is in strategic alignment with the priorities of the University. We have developed a standalone system to generate sound signals according to the scooter’s operating conditions, such as vehicle speed, and investigated pedestrian awareness of an approaching scooter with a series of added warning sounds. The range of sounds generated so far can increase vehicle awareness, without compromising noise annoyance. Further funding has been secured from the University of Salford’s Innovation Strategy Fund to continue our research for developing warning sounds for an optimal balance between noticeability and annoyance.”
Joanna Wootten, Chair of TfL’s Independent Disability Advisory Group
IDAG is really excited about the London operators’ methodical and collaborative approach to creating an audible sound for their e-scooters. They are breaking new ground where there are currently no standards or regulations in place. IDAG looks forward to working with them as the scheme progresses.
Mike Bell, National Public Affairs Lead at the Thomas Pocklington Trust said:
“It’s vital transport works for everyone, and is safe and inclusive for those with different needs. Introducing a clear, recognisable sound to e-scooters will help protect blind and partially sighted people and other potentially vulnerable road users by helping them to detect when a vehicle is approaching.
“We want to make sure this sound is effective in real city environments, and so we are thrilled to be working closely with UCL and TIER as it is developed and rolled out, to help make a real difference to visually impaired people in London and across the country.”
ABOUT TIER Mobility
TIER Mobility is Europe's leading shared micro-mobility provider, with a mission to Change Mobility for Good. By providing people with a range of shared, light electric vehicles, from e-scooters to e-bikes and e-mopeds, powered by a proprietary Energy Network, TIER helps cities reduce their dependence on cars. Founded in 2018 by Lawrence Leuschner, Matthias Laug and Julian Blessin, TIER is headquartered in Berlin and currently operates in 250+ cities across 22 countries in Europe and the Middle East. With a focus on providing the safest, most equitable and most sustainable mobility solution, TIER has been climate neutral since 2020.
TIER’s investors include SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Mubadala Capital, Northzone, Goodwater Capital and White Star Capital. For more information, visit www.tier.app.