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Silent hybrid and electric vehicles should always make a noticeable sound, says National Federation of the Blind

When we first wrote about the threat that electric vehicles pose to blind pedestrians last fall, we got dozen of comments and we realized we'd tapped into an important aspect auto designers need to think about. If you're interested in a robust debate (along with some terrible, heartless comments) on the topic, go back to that post and read what you had to say.
The reason I point this out is because there is an update to the story. The Wall Street Journal today brings hybrids – not just EVs – into the discussion because full-hybrids like the Prius (and more and more cars like PHEVs and newer standard hybrids in the coming years) make no engine noise at low speeds (or for the first few miles). The WSJ picks up the story thanks to moves by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), an advocacy group that is calling for all hybrid vehicles to emit a sound when turned on, and this noise needs to be loud enough to hear over ambient traffic noise.

NFB blog editor Chris Danielsen writes today that the article is "excellent," but that, "Unfortunately, it looks as though we face an uphill battle in convincing automobile manufacturers and advocates of hybrid vehicles that the danger to blind pedestrians is real."

I agree with Danielsen that there will be an uphill fight to make people realize the seriousness of the problem. Remember the uproar over the judge's decision that U.S. bills will need to be changed so blind people can use it? But, if engineers can develop a vehicle that goes 50+ mpg, then there has got to be a sensible and efficient way to alert the vision-impaired to the vehicle's presence.

[Source: Wall Street Journal via Hugg, h/t to Linton]

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