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UCL teams up with e-scooter operators to develop alert sound

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London shared e-scooter operators TIER, Lime and Dott are teaming up with UCL to develop an alert sound to help protect pedestrians.

UCL’s specialist Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) announced on Friday that it is partnering with the operators in order to research and develop a “universal sound” for rental e-scooters that alerts pedestrians and other roads users of their approach.

The sound will be developed in London from next month, in an approach endorsed by TfL, and is expected to produce a sound that can be tested by operators later this year, before attaining an industry standard and 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 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. 

Following the announcement, Professor Nick Tyler, Director at 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 micromobility that is quickly growing in popularity.”

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