We spoke with Dr Roger Woodman from WMG at the University of Warwick to find out more about the current research project underway
E-scooters are an affordable, convenient and clean mode of transport that can be easily integrated with public transport, replacing short car journeys. So far, over 1.7M rides were taken with the Voi’s carbon-neutral e-scooters across the UK, and over 4M km were travelled.
This new mode of transport offers a huge potential to reduce air pollution and cut noise pollution – two major causes of health issues in the UK and across the globe.
Currently, no e-scooters in the UK have an artificial sound applied; this is echoed in Europe and the US. We have been working closely with the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and we are aware that the lack of sound presents a challenge to blind and partially sighted people.
Making micromobility as safe and accessible as possible for all is at the top of our priorities. Voi has been working with WMG, at the University of Warwick and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and research is underway to investigate the impact of an e-scooter sound for blind and partially sighted people, as well as other non-riders and riders.
WMG is an academic department at the University of Warwick and is an international leader in successful collaboration between academia and the private and public sectors, driving innovation in applied science, technology and engineering.
Assistant Professor Roger Woodman, from WMG, University of Warwick, sheds light on the university’s collaboration with Voi and the RNIB and the benefits of this research to set a standard for the micromobility industry.
Could you tell us more about yourself and your work at the University of Warwick’s WMG?
I head the Human Factors group at WMG, where we specialise in design evaluation of mobility solutions. My research focuses on inclusive vehicle and service design, which aims to inform the next generation of accessible transport. This is essential, as accessibility is often overlooked when developing new technologies but by involving people with disabilities at an early design stage, we can create solutions, which are beneficial to everyone.
How did WMG’s collaboration with Voi and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) come about?
The conversations started a while ago, and the research phase is in progress to see if e-scooter sounds are a practical solution to help reduce the challenge that e-scooters might pose to blind and partially sighted people.
What are you hoping to find out from this research?
We are assessing the practicality of adding sound and developing an initial sound generation concept to evaluate its impact on blind and partially sighted people and riders and non-riders.
The research team will also consider how riders’ behaviour changes in response to a sound. As potentially adding a sound may make riders less cautious around people, as well as investigating how the audible warning can be paired with a visual (light) warning, to not only alert people who are unable to see the e-scooters but also those that are unable to hear them. This includes Deaf people and people with hearing loss, and also everyone else in loud environments, which you often find near roads and other places e-scooters will be allowed to operate.
How are you investigating the effects of e-scooter sounds on blind and partially sighted people?
We will be doing so by working with the RNIB and Voi to evaluate how different sounds might impact blind and partially sighted people as well as riders and non-riders. This way, it will be possible to identify a sound or sounds that will make e-scooters more noticeable to blind and partially sighted people without impacting riders and other road users.
What impact will this research have on micromobility?
Besides allowing Voi to make an informed decision when it comes to introducing a sound to its e-scooters, this research will hopefully create an industry standard that will benefit the whole micromobility industry while giving legislators strategic insights and data that they can consider in future decision making.
Voi’s collaboration with WMG at the University of Warwick, adds another step to better understand the needs of blind or partially sighted people following the announcement of a working collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) earlier this year.