This article was originally published by Christopher Carey on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

German micromobility firm TIER Mobility plans to fit its e-scooters with artificial warning sounds to alert blind and partially sighted people of their approach.

The company has partnered with the Thomas Pocklington Trust – a UK charity for blind and partially sighted people – and will incorporate research from the organization to design and roll out the new feature across its UK fleet in 2021.

Last month York City Council announced it was working with TIER to deploy 50 e-scooters across the city in the new year – with the potential for 600 to be up and running by May 2021.

Fred Jones, TIER’s UK General Manager, said: “E-scooters offer lots of benefits to UK cities, but they must be introduced in a considered way, working in harmony with local communities and accounting for the concerns of people with visual impairment.

“Rather than just paying lip service to visually impaired people, we want to work with them to deliver real action to address their concerns, so we are thrilled to be working with Thomas Pocklington Trust to design and roll out a sound alert across our vehicles next year.”

The firm currently operates in over 60 cities across nine countries.

Safety concerns

As the popularity of e-scooters has exploded in recent years, significant concerns have been raised about the safety of the devices, both for riders and pedestrians.

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that most e-scooter injuries occur on pavements and happen to inexperienced users, with a survey of 103 injured e-scooter riders at a Washington D.C hospital revealing 40 percent of those injured had been taking their first ride on an e-scooter.

In July the UK government launched e-scooter trials in select locations around the country, but issues quickly arose in some cities, with Coventry suspending its trial days after its introduction after users were seen mounting pavements and riding scooters in pedestrianized areas.

A week into an e-scooter trial in Teesside, two riders were stopped by police after they were caught using the devices on a busy dual carriageway.

Some e-scooter providers rely on geofencing technology to combat their use in restricted areas, though the time-lag in disabling devices when they leave a permitted area – which can be up to 30 seconds – means this isn’t always effective.

In October, American firm Superpedestrian claimed to have designed an inbuilt sensor-based geofenced system on its LINK e-scooters which ensures riders cannot use them within a second of leaving an authorized zone.

The company, founded by urban transport experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has received approval to operate in the UK from the Department for Transport (DfT) and is currently in talks with local authorities in London regarding upcoming e-scooter trials.

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Published November 13, 2020 — 11:00 UTC