Breakthrough sound testing for e-scooters by UCL PEARL

York, Essex and London Sight Loss Councils (SLC) joined Senior Managers from Thomas Pocklington Trust at UCL PEARL’s sound testing of an Acoustic Vehicle Alert (AVA) for e-scooters.

Sight Loss Councils are working with rental operators to improve e-scooter safety across the country. Among the concerns from blind and partially sighted people is the near silent operation of e-scooters.

TIER recognised these concerns and began working with UCL PEARL on developing an AVA, before inviting Transport for London and other London operators to collaborate on the project.

PEARL is currently testing 14 sounds in its unique research facility where it creates life-sized environments for research. Using feedback from visually impaired people, the team will narrow the sounds down to seven for the next phase of testing.

Attendees of the testing session are standing in a line, in a big open space within Pearl. A member of the research team is addressing them.

UCL PEARL Research Team Member talking to attendees about their work to date


This phase of experiments includes two tests:

  • The first is to listen to sounds coming from 10 different speakers positioned in two semi circles and to pinpoint exactly which speaker the sound is coming from. The sound plays continuously and the pitch increases with speed.
  • The second test is to experience how the AVA would sound amid traffic noise. The SLC members had to indicate when the e-scooter sound could be heard and indicate which direction it came from.

Samantha Leftwich, Essex Sight Loss Council member said:

“The event was fascinating. The AVA system is something Sight Loss Councils have been campaigning for during the e-scooter trials across the country. It was really exciting to be involved in refining the process for the next testing phase of potential sounds. The team had very clear technical and scientific knowledge and this was delivered enthusiastically and passionately.”


Essex Sight Loss Council member, Samantha Leftwich, is sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen which shows a yellow graph. She is looking down at her guide dof. There are four other attendees and research members standing around her.

Essex Sight Loss Council member, Samantha Leftwich, testing one of the AVA’s


Testing of the preferred sound will be taken out into the street on e-scooters by the end of the year.

Iain Mitchell, Senior Engagement Manager for York Sight Loss Council said:

“It’s incredible to see the experiments UCL PEARL is doing – not just to create an AVA, but to create the right AVA.

“It has turned into one of the most advanced pieces of audio research I have even seen. Thank you both to UCL PEARL and TIER for all their hard work and dedication in bring this to fruition.”


York Engagement Manager, Iain Mitchell, standing outside UCL Pearl HQ.

Iain Mitchell, Engagement Manager for York outside the entrance of UCL PEARL


Haren Thillainathan, London Sight Loss Council member added:

“It was fantastic to visit UCL PEARL’s testing facilities in Dagenham which were very impressive. I found it fascinating to understand all of the factors which go into developing an effective acoustic alert sound.  I am very encouraged that this research will make a universal AVAS for rental and private E-scooters achievable soon. It is great to see the work of the SLCs is helping drive this innovation.”


London Sight Loss Council member Haren Thillainathan at UCL Pearl. He is sitting at a desk in the middle of a room, his guide dog is lying on the floor. A member from UCL Pearl is on the other side of the desk, mid conversation. There are two computer screens on the desk.

London Sight Loss Council member, Haren Thillainathan, learning about the sound testing taking place


Both Sight Loss Council and Thomas Pocklington Trust are looking forward to continuing the positive partnership with UCL PEARL and TIER.

If you are blind or partially sighted and would like to be involved in the next phase of testing, due to take place later this year, please contact for further information.

Publication date: 02 September 2022

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