• Nov 25, 2009
As the popularity of hybrids has grown over the last few years, advocates for the blind have been raising a red flag about noise, or -- more to the point -- the lack of it. Because electric-drive vehicles emit much lower levels of sound on the street, blind pedestrians who've relied on the noise emitted from traditional vehicles lose a major source of information when navigating the streets and sidewalks.

There have been movements in various legislatures to mandate some minimum sound level from electric vehicles to ensure that blind pedestrians can tell when they're approaching, and General Motors recently conducted a test session at its Milford Proving Grounds with a group of the visually-challenged to assess the audible warning systems on the Chevrolet Volt.

The engineers have employed the car's horn to emit a series of warning chirps when a pedestrian is in proximity to GM's gas-electric hybrid, evaluating the nature and level of the warnings to alert pedestrians rather than startle them. GM spokesman Rob Peterson tells us that on the first generation Volt the warnings will be manually activated by the driver, although future iterations are likely to incorporate some sort of active system. Currently, the biggest hurdle is developing an active system that can distinguish a pedestrian from another vehicle. Otherwise, without a reliable detection system, the horns would be going off at all times, increasing noise levels and making it largely useless.

[Source: ChevroletVoltage.com]



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  • 27 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      So if you're downtown, you car would be honking at every intersection as people walk past the car? Drive in the wrong area of town you'll get shot.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Interesting video on the development of the Volt:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SP-n7pmWX-k
      • 5 Years Ago
      Steam trains and street cars in some cities use a constant ringing of a warning bell. Its not their primary horn or whistle, its just a ringing bell, 2 or 3 rings per second, about as loud as a telephone (outside that's not very loud). This gives people (blind or heads stuck in their book not paying attention because its their commute home and they've done this stretch a hundred times and could get home without looking away from their reading) an audible clue as to where the train is. Since its constant, the pedestrian can sense where the train is as its moving, and can get/stay out of the way, not like this system where it activates to let the person know they are already in the danger zone and should get their medical insurance cards ready since they're going to get hit by an electric car...
      • 5 Years Ago
      An electric car is only quiet in comparison to other cars. If all cars on the road were electric, there'd be much less background noise, and you'd probably be able to hear an electric car close to you just fine. Tire noise is very significant for anything traveling at speed, and every electric or hybrid car I've ever been around emits a slight high pitch whine.
      • 5 Years Ago

      "Getting rid of noise pollution offends my sensibilities !"

      "Abolishing noise pollution will only assist crooks getting away with stolen vehicles allowing them to escape without a peep !"

      "Eliminating noise pollution is AGAINST MY RELIGION !"

      Are these good enough reasons to artificially add sounds / noises / bells / alerts to Electric vehicles ? As someone that lived near a major roadway in my bachelor days I'd argue that (natural) noise pollution as it stands now is a form of white noise in that the general engine sounds, tire sounds, wind displacement all combine in a kind of uniform 'rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrroooooooooosssh' sound. Let's compare that to the upcoming cacophony of hundreds of distinctly unique noises / bells / alerts each from a different manufacturer / type of vehicle. One R2-D2 is cute.......a couple thousand of them all chirping, buzzing, blipping, and blooping simultaneously = the opposite of white noise.

      And to think I was actually looking forward to quieter highways, roadways, cities, and neighbourhoods ~ shame on me.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The screen grab at the top is great.

      "Today Lutz revealed the focus group GM used to style the Volt."
      • 5 Years Ago
      agreed about the constant sound...

      Sam
      http://www.isopurewater.com/
      • 5 Years Ago
      Every car makes a different amount of noise. How do we know that the Volt is under whatever threshold makes it unsafe? Who decides where that line is? I'd imagine it's different for every blind (or non-blind) person out there. So that means whatever threshold we choose, it'll be too low for somebody. Let's just make all cars deafeningly loud so that no matter how hard of hearing a person is, he'll still hear them coming!

      Or we could stop being foolish and address the real problem. The problem is that some people that rely on hearing to cross the street safely are finding some cars to be too quiet. It doesn't matter what kind of drivetrain those cars have. Quiet can be achieved with any drivetrain. Quieter cars are a good thing. Rather than choosing a line that works for some people and fails for others and makes cities noisier for everybody, why don't the people who have a problem carry or wear a device that "sees" the car coming their way? This shouldn't be hard to develop, and it will address the problem without making the world worse for everybody.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Honk if you love pointless crap!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I should elaborate, the intention of the system is not crap just the execution. Can you imagine if every car did this?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Down rate if you hate clueless remarks.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Are there really enough blind people to make this even a valid concern... the chances of a blind person meeting up at a corner where a Chevy volt is waiting are so small that it really doesn't make sense...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Bryan one life is worth it. Anything to help keep people safe. And just because someone is not blind, does not mean they are not paying attention!
      • 5 Years Ago
      But doesn't it make sense for this to work the other way around for the blind. Meaning, to have a device that they carry that would have a standard warning beacon for all electric/hybrid/cell cars. (The manufactures will still have to add electronics to the car.) When the car is close to what ever beacon they carry it will sound.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think the idea is a great one, however, I think there should be one sound for all hybrids. Blind people could be taught the sound to listen for instead of having to remember how many sounds are created for different hybrids. Of course this is assuming all manufacturers of hybrids go this direction...which they should. And also, the sound needs to be pretty unique as a pedestrian hears all types of sounds walking along a street.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Great idea, also this technology is not only for the blind... because they already watch out on streets... ordinary seeing people also tend to rely on sounds when crossing a street,
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