new silent cars dangerous for blind people

Discussion in 'Optometry Archives' started by CarlosWA, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. CarlosWA

    CarlosWA Guest

    I am posting this on behalf of Kim, a blind friend.

    In summary the problems is that people who are blind or with certain
    disabilities are in danger of being hit by new energy efficient cars
    which are silent. I hope this posting will raise awareness and
    motivate those who can contribute to solving the problem to take
    action. I will forward any reply postings to Kim.

    Responses to Kim
    Two auto companies have contacted us and said that they are aware of
    the problem and are passing it on to their engineering departments. I
    pointed out to them that blind people need to be involved in the
    testing of whatever noise they choose to use in the hybrid cars.
    Someone in a wheelchair wrote to say that she uses traffic noise a lot
    as it is difficult for her to turn her head to see all traffic coming
    from behind.
    Someone said that hybrid cars approaching to pick them up were totally
    silent and because they were blind they did not know their ride was
    there. This could be a problem if there are hybrid taxis.
    Someone pointed out that kids playing on or near the edge of the
    street would not hear the hybrid cars and drivers must be vigilant for
    A sighted driver pulled into a parking space, got out of his car, and
    was taking things out of the back seat. A hybrid car pulled in beside
    him at this moment. He did not hear a thing and was scared by the
    sudden presence of a vehicle.

    Solutions suggested include:
    Having a noise from the exhaust fan of the hybrid car.
    Having the wheels or axels make a noise. Note this would not assist a
    person who is blind to read traffic if a car is totally stationery at
    an intersection.
    Having some sort of noise maker installed into the hybrid car like a
    beeping truck when it backs up.
    Having a computer chip in the hybrid and in a dog's harness or white
    cane so that they make a noise when they are near each other.
    Having a device made that a person who is blind can hold and it will
    tell them if there are vehicles in the vicinity. One problem with
    this would be if it malfunctioned and also another problem is the way
    you point the device and if it reads all traffic at all speeds. Also
    this would not assist you with cars that pull in or out of driveways
    or parking lots.
    Putting a section in all manuals for hybrid cars to make sure to watch
    for pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired. Public education
    is always good however people tell me they don't read their car
    Make sure as a blind or visually impaired pedestrian that you are
    always as visible as possible. Some people wear very bright vests
    obtained from shops for cyclists. Guide dog harnesses can have
    reflective tape on them. There are also lights like cycling lights
    that you can wear if you are concerned about visibility.

    Here is KIM's original e-mail:
    This is about the an issue with quiet cars.
    I have been blind since birth and travelled with a white cane from age
    6 on.
    For the past 13 plus years I have been partnered with three wonderful
    guide dogs. I have always considered myself a competent and confident
    traveller and thought that I could overcome any challenge in my
    Recently, while walking on a very quiet residential street with a
    sighted friend, we paused at the corner. There was no background
    noise, no traffic noise, no loud music, etc. I told my dog forward.
    She refused to go. My friend said, "There is a car on your right
    coming through the intersection." I heard nothing. It was a quiet or
    hybrid car.
    I have since learned that these vehicles make absolutely no noise when
    at low speeds or when idling waiting for a light to change.
    Contrary to popular belief, our guide dogs do not read the traffic
    lights for us. When I reach a lighted intersection, I listen for the
    noises of traffic flow. If the traffic is flowing parallel to me, it
    means my light is green. However, I often wait for a fresh light to
    cross the street. If
    the traffic is perpendicular to me (moving across in front of me) the
    light is red and I wait for a green light.
    If the intersection was full of quiet cars, I could not read traffic
    and would not know when to give my dog the forward command.
    But this is not the only issue.
    When I stop at the corner of a stop street with no light, I listen to
    make sure no traffic is approaching before giving my dog the forward
    command. Again, if the intersection was filled with quiet vehicles I
    would not know when it was safe to do this.
    When I travel on a sidewalk-less road, I walk on the left hand side
    with my dog on my left facing traffic. When cars approach us, I turn
    us into the curb edge to make sure we are out of the line of fire!
    Again, I would not know when traffic was approaching in this
    When walking through parking lots, I would not know if quiet cars were
    suddenly turning in front of me or coming from behind.
    When walking down a sidewalk, I would not know if a quiet car was
    pulling in to or out of a driveway.
    Many of our big cities are now filled with wheelchair ramps at curbs.
    This is generally a good thing but makes lining up with an
    intersection trickier for someone who is blind. I use traffic noise to
    make sure I am pointing in the correct direction for a street
    This is especially useful when coming to rounded curbs which make it
    even more difficult to line up with intersections.
    In the winter here in Canada with snow covered corners, lining up with
    intersections is trickier.
    When it is windy or raining hard or in winter when you need to wear a
    hat, traffic noise is more muffled.
    This issue really concerns me as I cherish being able to travel
    I would just like these cars to make some kind of noise.
    Please pass this on to anyone you like.

    CarlosWA, Aug 9, 2005
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  2. An interesting post for

    Anyway I was kind of startled when my friend first departed in his Prius
    (sp?). It was spooky to "hear" him depart in relative silence. I don't
    think sighted people mind this, in fact it's kind of desirable. But for
    blind people, I can see that it could be a hazard. I'd suggest the
    possibility of some kind of electronic emitter that could be linked to
    something like a cell phone set on vibrate, and it could vibrate
    differently for approaching, nearby , more distant, stationary vehicles,
    etc. Maybe a better approach would be to build a sensor that detects the
    electromagnetic field that those big electric motors must emit, and at
    least signal some kind of warning to the wearer. At least that approach
    wouldn't necessarily require modifications to all the vehicles.

    Maybe our resident engineering expert will weigh in on this subject...

    w.stacy, o.d.
    William Stacy, Aug 10, 2005
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  3. CarlosWA

    drfrank21 Guest

    It would be equally so for the hearing impaired as well. You get
    one of those suckers coming up from behind a deaf individual and
    that person is road kill if he doesn't look behind him. Maybe
    Otis could use his engineering skills/energy in a positive light to
    the hearing impaired as well as the visually impaired for these
    types of cars.

    drfrank21, Aug 10, 2005
  4. CarlosWA

    A Lieberman Guest

    He won't.....

    Doesn't work on the box camera theory nor will explain why the chicken
    crossed the road.

    A Lieberman, Aug 10, 2005
  5. I'm sighted, but I'm not sure that the severely visually
    impaired use their hearing in any way comparable to us
    sighted people.

    The hybrids may not make the traditional engine roar,
    but they still make some noise. The tires will always
    be noisy, and electric motors make their own noises,
    particularly as they wind up.

    To assist them, I'd suggest a small electronic device similar
    to those used to measure room sizes, but with tactile or audio
    (doppler) reporting. A slightly more sophisticated device
    could be built with multiple sensors and binaural feedback.

    -- Robert (who hesitates to mention he is also an engr)
    Robert Redelmeier, Aug 10, 2005
  6. CarlosWA

    David Guest

    I live in central Florida, so people are outside more often. The
    solution we have around here is best demonstrated by the car stereo
    add-ons some people have.

    The sound is so loud you can feel it and hear it. Please note
    that I can tell where these things are at even when I take my
    hearing aids out and turn up the stereo in my car. They must use
    noice canceling technology inside the car, since the driver seems
    to be oblivious to the fact that other people hear them. Local
    law enforcement has a problem since the speakers are pointed
    into the driver compartment.

    I do use hearing aids and usually they are helpful. However,
    there are times that the normal sound orienting that I get
    doesn't correlate to where the sound comes from. We also
    have several people who take lunch in their car with the
    engine on for the A/C. So its is sometimes a surprise to
    find a car that could move, but you're not sure if it will.
    I rely on sight as well as hearing to avoid such problems.

    Yes, the Prius and other alternate power vehicles have
    some interesting characteristics. We'll get used to them
    eventually -- as will the drivers of said vehicles.

    David, Aug 10, 2005
  7. I'd be tempted to wear one of those miniature rear view mirrors that
    cyclists use. I saw a guy driving a sportscar with one on. I imagine
    they offer a wider field than standard auto mirrors.

    w.stacy, o.d.
    William Stacy, Aug 10, 2005
  8. CarlosWA

    ycdbsoya Guest

    WTF are blind and deaf people doing in the road anyway? Shouldn't they
    be out of the roadway, just like all the other able-bodied people?

    I know there was discussion of using the handicapped as light poles,
    holders for directional signs traffic meters, but these are all
    right-of-way uses. Perhaps we can flatten them and use them as manhole
    ycdbsoya, Aug 10, 2005
  9. CarlosWA

    drfrank21 Guest

    Hey jerk- there are people called "pedestrians", you know, people who
    actually walk and have to share intersections with slobs like you.
    Or do you think all deaf and blind people should be confined indoors??
    Go back to your cave.

    drfrank21, Aug 10, 2005
  10. I think you misspelled "cage", unless we're not actually talking about
    different mammalian genus, as opposed to a separate species of homo, in
    which case "cave" might actually be appropriate...
    William Stacy, Aug 10, 2005
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