Cameras or sensors could be fitted to e-scooters to prevent them being ridden on pavements, the Evening Standard can reveal.
Firms involved in Transport for London’s trial of rental e-scooters are considering using technology to inform them when the battery-powered vehicles are being ridden illegally — and potentially bring them to a halt.
The Met also called for riders of the privately owned “micro-mobility” vehicles to be required to wear cycle helmets, should the Government decide to legalise them, because of concerns about head injuries.
TfL’s trial of rental e-scooters is due to run until June in 10 boroughs. It has yet to decide whether to extend the trial until November, in line with an extension granted by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps for the 31 e-scooter rental trials in England.
The vehicles, provided by Dott, Tier and Lime, are bigger and safer than privately owned ones and also have their speed capped at 12.5mph. They are the only e-scooters that can be used on public roads, but like privately-owned scooters, are banned on pavements.
A total of 15 serious injuries have been reported by the three TfL-approved operators, from a total of 740,000 journeys.
Duncan Robertson, UK general manager at Dott, told a Sight Loss Council conference on e-scooter safety that on-board cameras, GPS mapping technology or sensors that detected changes in the road surface could potentially be used to determine whether e-scooters were being ridden on pavements.
Dott has trialled See.Sense monitors that detect changes in rider behaviour, such as braking and swerving, and the vibrations from poor-quality road surfaces.
It is also considering installing a live camera feed from Dublin-based Luna Systems, which has also worked with Tier. Images showing the vehicles being misused could potentially allow them to be slowed remotely or for riders to receive a warning or be banned.
Mr Robertson said: “This is a really hot topic. There are a lot of companies out there that we are all working with to see if there is a way we can deliver this kind of technology.
“The key challenge is: can we do it in real time? Can we get immediate feedback on what is going on in the street and turn that into action that is appropriate for that particular instance?”
The number of privately-owned e-scooters seized by the Met police has increased from 53 in 2019 to 284 in 2020 to 3,987 last year.
Sgt Wilson said that in one week following the start of the TfL trials, 507 were seized. However this level of enforcement was “unsustainable” due to a lack of storage space, he said.
A report by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, of which Sgt Wilson is a member, last month said that 15 people had died in the UK riding e-scooters, including 11 last year. There were nearly 900 collisions causing injury, 38 per cent of them serious, in 2021.
The report said the current situation was “unsatisfactory” as the “unsafe nature of some private e-scooters, and irresponsible use by some, is leading to serious injuries”.
This risked harming efforts by rental operators and local authorities seeking to provide a safe, green transport option.
Last month the first medical analysis of e-scooter injuries referred to hospitals in London found that many suffered “life-changing” wounds.
Sgt Wilson said cycle helmets – which are tested to offer protection up to 12.5mph – should become a legal requirement for private e-scooters if the Government decided to legalise them.
He said: “We see large numbers of head injuries in those that are injured while rising scooters. Therefore the use of a cycle helmet should become mandatory.”