Dott e-scooter

Artificial noises to be added to e-scooters to improve safety

Image credit: Dott

E-scooter rental firm Dott has said it is testing a selection of e-scooter sounds which are designed to increase awareness of vehicles without contributing to noise pollution.

The sounds have been developed by researchers at the University of Salford in partnership with the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB).

Three potential sounds have been identified so far which are designed to increase awareness of the vehicles in a bid to cut potential accidents.

The proposed sounds can be heard here, here and here

Figures from NHS Ambulance Trusts across England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed that that e-scooter accidents rocketed by around 82 per cent from 2020 to 2021.

This followed the introduction of e-scooter rental services in London on a trial basis from the middle of 2020. These trials have been extended repeatedly and are now expected to run until at least Autumn 2023.

Wearing a virtual-reality headset, research participants will be immersed into a 360-degree environment, featuring simulations of e-scooter riders in different scenarios.

Working with RNIB, a group of people, including blind and partially sighted, will be asked to identify when they are first aware of the e-scooter, and provide feedback on the suitability and preference of the three sounds.

The tests will take place in a laboratory in London, before being repeated in Italy, Sweden and Spain in collaboration with blind associations across Europe. The trials in different countries will ensure international relevance with the aim of creating a global standard for an e-scooter sound.

In 2019, the EU introduced new rules for electric automotives that meant all new cars would need to be capable of making artificial noise under certain conditions in order to improve safety. Electric cars are typically much quieter when driving than ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles.

Dr Antonio J Torija Martinez, principal investigator from the University of Salford, said: “We are testing a series of carefully designed e-scooter sounds to find the right balance between maximum vehicle noticeability and minimum noise pollution.

“Using virtual reality to create immersive and realistic scenarios, in a safe and controlled laboratory environment, will allow us to achieve robust results. By working closely with the RNIB and blind associations across Europe, we can ensure that the sound we develop is the best fit for their needs.”

Robin Spinks, RNIB head of inclusive design, said: “Light electric vehicles emit virtually no sound. Imagine for a second how terrifying this could be if they are used irresponsibly for someone with little or no sight.

“We’re working with multiple stakeholders across the transport industry to bring about sustainable improvements in safety, perceivability and awareness. Operators, researchers and regulators must all collaborate to ensure a more inclusive urban environment for all.”

Following the virtual-reality phase, the sounds will be tested on the streets of London and across Europe to validate the laboratory setting findings.

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