Hybrids will soon sound safer for pedestrians

Chevrolet, General Motors and the National Federation of the Blind are cooperating to identify a safe level of sound to alert the blind and other pedestrians to the presence of near silent-running electric and hybrid vehicles.

Members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and engineers from GM began meeting earlier this year to understand the safety needs of pedestrians with respect to quiet vehicles, and to work on solutions for the benefit of pedestrians, cyclists, runners, children and other members of the public.

Several NFB members recently experienced a demonstration of the pedestrian warning alert on a pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle driven at various speeds by chief engineer Andrew Farah. While visiting GM’s Milford Proving Ground, they also evaluated the alert from the front, sides and rear of the car.

“We have significant background in the area of pedestrian alerts dating to our work on our first electric car, the EV1,” Farah said, “The most important thing is to listen to the people who will interact with these vehicles in everyday life.”

Deborah Kent Stein, who chairs the NFB’s committee on automobile and pedestrian safety, said, “A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) demonstrated that the silent operation of hybrid vehicles is an issue for all pedestrians, not just the blind. In certain situations, electric or hybrid vehicles are twice as likely to be involved in collisions with pedestrians.”

Said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, “We urge all automobile manufacturers to work with the blind in designing vehicle sounds to alert us to the approach, speed and direction of vehicles so that both drivers and pedestrians can safely use America’s roadways.”