• Jun 20, 2010
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The Nissan Leaf is the first of the new batch of electric vehicles to reveal its pedestrian-alert sound. While advocates for the blind are pleased with the introduction of the audible warning, the National Federation for the Blind is not happy that the Nissan Leaf will allow drivers to disable this feature.

The main point of creating artificial sounds is to help pedestrians who rely on hearing to know whether a car is approaching. If drivers can turn the system off, the effort is rendered pointless. Nissan 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. As with the disable switches for stability control systems, the noise is only turned off for the current drive cycle. Each time the car is shut off, the noise is re-enabled. We see the value in turning off such audible signatures in limited circumstances (teens creeping up their parents' driveways after curfew, whirring in late to a drive-in movie, etc.).That said, we also understand the NFB's concerns.

The introduction of electric vehicles to mainstream consumers is in its infancy, with new legal standards still evolving. To that end, the National Federation for the Blind plans to continue pursuing legislation that mandates permanent sound systems in all hybrid and electric vehicles.



[Source: The New York Times]


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  • 47 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      on my schools campus and all around downtown most if not all intersections have a noise maker to signal when it is ok to cross for blind people. as far as im concerned thats the only time they should be in the street. if they get hit it wasnt the fault of the car, its was driver error, and would be the same if the person was sighted or not.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Or like Kathy Griffin would say: "They [blind advocates] Can Suck It!"
      • 4 Years Ago
      This has probably been said before but electric cars still have horns, don't they?
      • 4 Years Ago
      The soundless cars aren't the problem, it's the pedestrians who think they own the road. Blind people hear a car....they aren't going to escape it. When has a blind person ever ran across the street?

      The solution is having a safe pedestrian infrastructure that compliments the blind and deaf. Such has voice-over announcement of light changes and when its free to cross the street. Parking lots can have scanning devices that signal blind people via vibrating pager.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Meanwhile, everyone else in the universe is pissed that they're *intentionally* increasing noise pollution.
      • 4 Years Ago
      perhaps making it mandatory for certain areas, ie city travel, that require sound to be turned on.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Those are my thoughts as well.
        I understand the use for the audible sound, but i see no reason if you are on the highway or freeway that your car needs to make noise. I really hope blind people aren't walking across interstate highways.

        Maybe have the car make sounds at speeds under 50mph or so.
        I'd suggest a slower speed for the car to make noise, but god knows there are morons out there that drive 45 in a 25 through intersections.

        The sound could also come on via gps.
        • 4 Years Ago
        How about, let me turn off the stupid sound and I promise not to run over any people with a red tipped walking cane?

        Seriously, as if the sound from a car is what saves blind people's lives when walking the sidewalks and not the drivers actually paying attention?

      • 4 Years Ago
      Again, why are blind people in the road anyway?

      If they're crossing the street, they're in a cross walk and have a crossing light. If not, they're jaywalking and asking to be hit.

      And tell me how a blind person is going to dodge a car even if the blind person hears it?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I thought the blind developed super senses of the remaining 4?

      Still I can hear the cars tires on pavement and electric motors and such on current Priora's. Not sure what the fuss is.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Two major flaws with this system.

      1) Instead of reducing noise pollution that effects everyone in the city we are creating it needlessly now.

      2) Blind people will be continuing to put their safety in other people's hands.

      How about we go a bit more high tech. Put transponders on every vehicle that produce a low power locating signal (range of a block). Allow blind people to buy specially designed GPS units that can pick up these signals. The GPS could give them custom verbal directions when walking in the city and alert them to approaching cars, obstacles and when it is safe to cross. Crossing signals could even squawk a signal to the GPS to tell them when they have the light or not. Drivers could be alerted by a signal squawked from the GPS when coming to an intersection with a blind pedestrian crossing. The cost would likely be less than adding audible chirping to every intersection and every car and we would all be safer while still enjoying a bit quieter cities.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't know why, but the Leaf kinda reminds me of a hamster.
        • 4 Years Ago
        OOPS, I meant guinnea pig.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would turn it off every time I got into the car. Then I'd get frustrated and rip the speakers out.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yes blind people, because when we attend funerals and weddings or go to a hospital we really want our cars making unnecessary noise. If we have the option to make our cars make no noise at all during such instances where a show of respect is warranted, we should be able to treat our cars noise like a cell phone - please set them to silent.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Until I hear what the sound is supposed to be like, I'll reserve judgment. Having said that though, I can't imagine it being anything louder than the sounds a current conventional internal combustion engine car makes. Given that a people regularly drive their conventional IC cars to weddings and funerals without any showing of disrespect, I have a hard time seeing how a comparable sound emitted by electric cars would be any different.
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