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The Nissan Leaf is the first of the new batch of electric vehicles to reveal its new sound meant that alerts pedestrians to its presence. However, while advocates for the blind are pleased with the sound, the National Federation for the Blind is not happy that Nissan has added a switch that allows drivers to turn the noise off.

As the reasoning goes, the main point of creating artificial sounds is to alert pedestrians that rely on hearing to know if a car is approaching. If drivers can turn the system off, the whole effort becomes pointless. Nissan, though, says it added the switch to balance the needs of drivers and pedestrians while also claiming the sound is not really audible inside the car. Like the disable switches for stability control systems, the noise is only turned off for the current drive cycle. Each time the car is turned off, the noise is re-enabled. We see the value in turning off such sound signatures in limited circumstances (teens creeping up their parents' driveway after curfew, whirring in late to a drive-in movie, etc.), but can understand the NFB's concern all the same.

This early in the roll-out of electric vehicles, with new legal standards are still evolving, and the National Federation for the Blind plans to continue pursuing legislation that would make permanent sound systems mandatory in all hybrid and electric vehicles.




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  • 64 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      criticizing the eco lobbyists for their self-righteous and aggressive pushing of a personal agenda = bad, very very bad.

      criticizing lobbyists for the blind for doing the same thing for their members = good, very very good and even humorous.

      hypocrisy thy name is green.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Even worse actually in this particular case:

        Environmentalists = care about the whole population of people.

        Blind = care about only the stupid + blind

        You think a smart blind person is going to walk out in the road without a guide dog or helper?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Environmentalists = care about the whole population of people.

        Blind = care about only the blind.

        --------------

        I think we are spot on here.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The next time you are out walking in a quiet area, take a listen as cars approach. The loudest noise that virtually all of them make is the tires on the pavement.

      Last time I checked, the Leaf and the Volt have tires...

      Sincerely, Neil
        • 5 Years Ago
        Exactly! I've been saying this ever since this argument was brought up!
        I, for one, would love there to be less engine noises on the streets, though tires are still louder than exhaust at low speeds.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Whether the advocates for the blind like it or not, the sound system will be hacked and disabled by users who don't want to be forced into using said system. I think Nissan struck the right balance, in a noninvasive nor threatening way. And as a result I believe drivers won't be as compelled to disable the sound system all together.

      I really hope that the Nissan LEAF and all other electric cars to follow will build statistics to defeat this pointless initiative by the advocates for the blind.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Of course the family of any sight impaired individual who steps out in front of your car will be able to sue you for reckless endangerment and have you prosecuted for manslaughter should you decide to disable that safety feature.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Careful down that slippery slope argument.

        The NHTSA and congress have not gone against Nissan or GM.. telling them to remove driver controls. Right now, the automakers have done what they said they were going to do... make the system. They still want drivers to either manual actuate the alert (GM), or be able to turn off the system (Nissan).

        It is not illegal to turn off a passenger side airbag even when a full grown adult sits there. The insurance companies cannot deny the medical bills for that passenger even if you disable it.

        Traction control is the same way.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @wincros

        Oh please give me a break, they [the blind] would sue with the system on or off. A sound system doesn't give anyone a license to hit blind people or any people with an automobile (electric or not). Besides where is the outrage against ICE cars? They make virtually no sound when they back up and usually the one alert people look for is those white lights, but this doesn't protect the blind! Who is in charge of measuring the decibel levels produced by modern cars to ensure blind people can hear them?? The truth is that blind people have a limitation and it is their responsibility not to expose themselves to a potentially dangerous situation, to walk around traffic when you are blind is just as dumb as this advocacy to instill noise in quieter autos.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No kidding. This is the worst legislation I have seen in years. Just make them pay for canes with sensors that make the noise come on when an EV is near, end of issue and they can pay for it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Right, a few others and I came up with several good ideas that keep the car silent, but allow the pedestrian to pick up signals from the approaching car.

        The whole block should not suffer for the one blind guy that may be around somewhere.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've been driving for 40 years and I swear I've never seen a blind person on or near a street. By their constant whining you'd think they are wandering all over our highways.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Maybe it is like the Book of Eli... and nobody knows they are blind.

        Oops, did I ruin the ending?
      • 5 Years Ago
      As more blind people get run down by silent electric cars, bicycling will become safer. I'm all for it.

      I'm all for doing everything possible to help blind people. Really. But the answer is sensory assistive technology, not saying "Everything you've encountered in the past that's dangerous makes noise, therefore we will force everything dangerous in the future to make noise too" is idiotic.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Everything you've encountered in the past that's dangerous makes noise, therefore we will force everything dangerous in the future to make noise too"

        That is the best summary I have heard yet. :)
      • 5 Years Ago
      I will replace my sound on my Leaf with a loud speaker, I will then have it repeat the recording from that robot in "Lost In Space". "Warning! Danger! Warning! EV in the vicinity! Warning! Warning! Danger! Danger! EV in the vicinity! Warning... : 0

      Warning! Warning! Danger! Danger! Danger Will Robinson, danger! "Lost In Space"

      It could help promote EV's in a obnoxious sort of way. Maybe just play it in parades or as I am pulling into the Nissan service dept for a unneccesary maintenance check. I would just explain to everyone it is for the blind.
        • 5 Years Ago
        LOL

        Can you also install big swinging arms that extent out of the front grill... waving about as it screams, "danger, danger"? Also, to give those pedestrians a slap on the bum as they pass.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "The main point of creating artificial sounds is to alert pedestrians that rely on hearing to know if a car is approaching. If drivers can turn the system off, the whole effort becomes pointless."

      This is a logical fallacy. Just because you can turn something off, doesn't make it point less. I for instance might leave such a system on while in the grocery store parking lot. Pedestrians are often zoned out there. However, I would prefer to be able to turn it on when I want instead of it coming on automatically.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Right... the blind even want the noisemaker on at all speed (including standing still). So they don't care. Highway (no peds), your driveway on a quiet morning (no peds). Many roads have absolutely no pedestrians anywhere.

        The Blind live in their own world (literally)... where they are the only inhabitants... and everything out there is dangerous.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Slow moving EV's are to darn quiet. They should be forced to have buzzers.
      Slow moving ICE's are to darn quiet. They should be forced to have buzzers.
      Cyclist can reach speeds of 20-25 mph. They should be forced to have buzzers.
      Runners can reach speeds of 20 mph. They should be forced to have buzzers as well.
      And don't even start about those dangerous wheal chair users.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "And don't even start about those dangerous wheal chair users."

        I know you're being funny, but this is a serious problem.

        When I worked downtown, much of the foot traffic was in the skyways. Electric wheel chairs would zip around at maximum speed, creating a danger to the pedestrians. Many (by no means all) of the wheelchair bound seemed to feel as though they had the right to run over whoever was in their way.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't blame nissan for this.
      They know there is some backlash against adding sound to something that had its quietness pledged as one of the positives.
      This has allowed them to show due diligence to the problem I think - and left the decision up to their customer ultimately.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm just gonna put "electric car here" in braille on my bumper.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You know... whether or not you had the intention...

        Your Avatar brings out your comment nicely.
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