Peter Wright has been working at the forefront of new motorsport technology for over half a century.
He is perhaps most famous for redefining race car aerodynamics at F1’s Team Lotus, which led to the introduction of the revolutionary ‘ground-effect’ chassis in 1977.
After Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994, Wright was appointed President of the FIA Safety Commission and was at the forefront of the technical investigation which transformed safety in the World Championship.
As well as devising and deploying new technical regulations for high performance e-scooter racing, the Commission is investigating potential crossover safety opportunities for road-going electric scooters. Peter Wright spoke to the Editor of Zag Daily about the technical and safety findings from eSC’s inaugural season.
Zag Daily: What are some of your key learnings from the first season of eSC?
PW: “Experience from racing has shown us how easy it can be for riders to lose control of their scooters. That loss of control can come with little warning, and is difficult to recover from, which leads to potential injuries.
“We found in racing that it is the head, neck, and joints of the upper and lower limbs where these injuries can occur, which reflects the limited injury data findings currently available from public e-scooter use. So there are very similar vulnerabilities, but on the track the speeds are much higher and the riders obviously have full racing helmets, leathers and protective gear. Contact often happens in racing but we’re more interested in incidents where the rider loses control by themselves. Where the scooter becomes unstable. And when you lose control, it goes away very fast. This is where we see the real world relevance and where we want to focus the attention of our initial research.”
Zag Daily: So stability and control are the two biggest areas of concern for you?
PW: “Yes, control, that’s the key term. Our race riders are highly skilled. But the average user who rents a scooter is not particularly experienced in controlling a scooter. If they get disturbed by unevenness of the ground, a kerb, a pothole, or try to avoid something, they can lose control. Our priority is to help improve the stability of scooter design and reduce the risk of incidents and injuries.”
Zag Daily: Can you explain what you plan to do next?
PW: “We are developing a 12-month research programme looking at the fundamental control characteristics of e-scooters, and the sensitivity of relevant aspects of their design, such as structural stiffness, steering geometry, wheel gyroscopics and so on.
“Our team of researchers includes Andy Mellor who led the development for some of the most important life saving safety systems in F1. Working with our technology and data partners, Andy set up the sensor system we use on track. These sensors continuously monitor data from rider helmets, race suits and the scooter itself during a race. All of these data feeds match trackside camera systems so we can record and analyse any racing incident.
“From this we can create a mathematical model of a scooter and rider to simulate a variety of scenarios.”
Zag Daily: Will you be evaluating commercial e-scooters as well?
PW: “Yes, we intend to look at commercially available e-scooters to validate the results of our modelling. Partnering with the industry leaders will be crucial for this and we’re having conversations with some of the key players at the moment.
“The Commission’s wider aim has always been to have real world relevance and impact. This research is focused on solving a particular problem, one which we hope will have a very wide potential benefit for the industry. But we are also developing other programmes which can provide independent insights and safety information directly to consumers.
“We’ll have more to say publicly about these programmes early next year.”