Crack team of boffins hash out how e-scooters should sound – but they need your help*

*They're probably fine

Poll Boffins from UCL's Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) have linked arms with London e-scooter providers to decide on a "universal sound" for the silent but deadly transport mode.

It remains illegal in the UK to use a privately owned battery-powered deathtrap, but that hasn't stopped the great unwashed – as anyone who has suddenly had to dive off the path during a parkland walk will tell you.

However, to allow the craze in a regulated environment, rental firms have been popping up all over the country – including TIER, Lime and Dott in London – as evidenced by the amount of scooters cluttering pedestrian walkways or, indeed, the local river.

But since they are near-enough silent, except for the gentle rolling of the wheels, e-scooters are faced with a similar conundrum to electric car makers – that is, how should they sound for the sake of the safety of people on the street, and particularly those with sight loss.

Michael Pfadenhauer, Porche's head of acoustics, summed up the problem thusly:

There is no e-sound. It has to be invented. The sound transports the emotions of a vehicle. It gives you feedback about the potency and capability of the car... At higher speeds in sports mode, a more intense acoustic feedback is needed to make customers experience the potential of the vehicle.

OK, we doubt e-scooters are capable of much over 30mph, if that, but stepping out in front of one is still going to cause a nasty accident. So TIER, Lime, Dott and PEARL, with the blessing of Transport for London, are trying to hash out how the vehicles should sound regardless of operator or make.

The group is consulting with "disability experts and access consultants, including Transport for All, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Royal National Institute of Blind people" and the sound will "take into account the needs of individuals including those with sight loss, hearing loss and neurodiverse conditions."

Professor Nick Tyler, director at UCL PEARL, said: "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."

While PEARL's adherence to the scientific method is admirable, The Register is sure that our readership might have some ideas about how e-scooters should sound. So please cast your votes in the poll below or – even better – suggest your own in the comments. ®

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