Leading partition screen maker Driver Bubble is planning to have a Transport for London-approved screen for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class on the market by the end of February.
And the company is diversifying its product offerings in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic with the upcoming launch of Covd-19 testing kits that give a near-instant response.
The E-Class screen is currently undergoing testing at Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire in order to comply with the onerous TfL requirements that mean only drivers of some Ford and Toyota vehicles are allowed to fit the screens in London.
Amsterdam-based Driver Bubble has bought a secondhand E-Class, and Millbrook technicians will detonate some of the car’s airbags as part of the testing process to ensure that the screen does not interfere with their operation.
Only a few councils require such testing in order to allow screens to be fitted, said Driver Bubble’s Business Development Manager Will Cattrall, most notably Wolverhampton council, which actively discourages screens and “makes life difficult for drivers”.
He said he hoped the TfL process would become easier as Driver Bubble develops more screens for other vehicles. “After we’ve done three or four successfully, we’re hopeful Millbrook will approve everything we do,” said Cattrall.
Other UK councils were a lot more helpful, and Driver Bubble has started supplying screens in bulk to some of them, including Bradford City council, which has bought 3,000 screens to supply to local drivers free of charge.
“Depending on the council’s implemented policies, we have and continue to work closely with each separate Council to ensure that we provide the correct product which may be modified depending on the requirements of the Council,” Cattrall said.
He said northern councils were leading the safety initiatives: “They are more likely to provide screens for drivers rather than just recommend them.” At least 10 other councils have approved or ordered Driver Bubble screens. He also said he had been having “good conversations” with major ride-hailing apps about supplying screens in bulk for their drivers to use.
Cattrall added that it was in the interest of councils and operators to use approved screens in order to stop drivers from fitting unsafe or ineffective DIY screens in their vehicles.
Driver Bubble’s Covid-19 self-testing kits will be ready within the next three months. The kits are a self-administered swab test that tells the user whether or not they have Covid-19 within 15 minutes.
This would allow drivers to undergo very regular testing if clients are insisting upon a tested driver, or if a driver feels he or she may have been exposed to someone with the virus. It would also allow symptoms of non-Covid-19 illnesses to be tested – a driver may have a cough, but this might be unrelated to the Coronavirus.
“it’s a big step in the fight against Covid-19, and we’re looking to get these out to councils as soon as possible,” said Cattrall. Pricing for the kits was still being worked out.