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The 2011 Nissan Leaf EV  (Source: The New York Times)
Critics like the basic premise, but say it was poorly executed

After a couple of years of debate about how to best handle the risk that silent electric vehicles pose to blind pedestrians, the 2011 Nissan Leaf EV offered up a creative solution -- artificial noises emitted while driving.  You might guess that blind rights advocates would be happy.

That guess would be incorrect, though.  The National Federation of the Blind said that while including an alert was a step in the right direction, the system was full of flaws.  Their biggest problem was with the fact that the driver could disable the alert.  States the group, "[We are] disappointed that the driver is permitted to turn off the sound.  [This] in effect, allows drivers to deactivate this important safety feature and thereby endanger pedestrians, especially those who are blind."

Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind complains, "The biggest thing with us is that we don’t think the driver should be able to switch the sound off."

When enabled, the group is okay with the standard driving warning sound, which they say is "sufficient to alert pedestrians".  However, they are also displeased with the reverse warning sound, which unlike the forward noise is not continuous.  They comment, "Intermittent sound is not as effective as a continuous sound."

Another complaint they have is that no warning sounds are emitted when the vehicle is idling.

The backup noises sounds somewhat like a ringing bell or submarine sonar, while the forward noise sounds somewhat like a jet tanking off (a whistle) -- or as  Mark Perry, the director for product planning at Nissan Americas puts it, "You know that show with David Hasselhoff, Knight Rider? The forward sound reminds me of what KITT sounded like."

The sounds are generate by a synthesizer under the hood and should not disturb passengers within the cockpit, thanks to insulating layers.  The sounds measure at 2.5 kHz at the high end of the spectrum to 600 Hz at the bottom.

Nissan recruited high profile help to develop the system, including, the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, acoustic psychology experts from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a Hollywood sound design studio that was not identified.  Interestingly, The National Federation of the Blind -- the organization that is offering up the current criticism -- also helped provide design input for the system.

Perry defends the system against the recent criticism, stating, "They’re entitled to their opinions on the sounds turning off and what the sounds should be. The on-off switch by default is in the on position, and the driver has to make a decision each time to turn it off. The switch is there to balance the needs of drivers and pedestrians, though we think most owners will leave the system on because they can’t hear the sounds inside the car."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and legislators in Congress are currently working on legislation which would mandate noisemakers in electric vehicles.  There are no such current regulations; the Nissan system was implemented merely in good faith.


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I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By Boze on 6/21/2010 2:38:11 PM , Rating: 5
However...

According to CDC numbers, around 0.3% of the population is legally blind. I don't think that 0.3% of the population should be overly concerned about this. Its the responsibility of the driver to notice someone with a cane, or a dog, or both a dog and a cane (and anyone else trying to cross the street for that matter).

If you're too busy doing something in your car while driving, that you can't notice a blind person trying to cross the street, then you might want to stop:

Eating your Egg McMuffin
Putting on your gd makeup
Making a pointless cell phone call
Answering a pointless cell phone call
Sending a moronic text message
Reading a moronic text message
Reaching down to get something you dropped (that should have been properly stowed in the first place)
Turning around to tell your kid to stop hitting your other kid

Or a list of any other things that I can't think of at the moment that serve to cause as distractions while operating a motor vehicle.

Its a 1500 to 6000+ pound block of steel and/or flammable liquids... use a little gd caution and common sense while operating it.




RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By greylica on 6/21/10, Rating: 0
By YashBudini on 6/21/2010 5:30:33 PM , Rating: 2
Are you kidding? Isn't that borderline suicidal?


By mfed3 on 6/21/2010 2:51:02 PM , Rating: 3
THANK YOU. at least someone agrees with me.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By xler8r on 6/21/10, Rating: 0
RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By therealnickdanger on 6/21/2010 5:16:38 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
I understand there is a slew of more variables than there was when they made cars without belts (including higher car speeds).

Since the "old days" vehicle miles traveled (VMT) have been increasing , the number of licensed drivers have been increasing , the number of cars on the road have been increasing , and crashes (including fatalities) have been decreasing . Compare them using basic math and you'll quickly see that crash rates and fatality rates are plummeting over the decades.

http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Trends/TrendsGeneral...

(Older data, but just for one state)
http://www.dps.state.mn.us/OTS/crashdata/2009CFact...

Every crash is unique and varies by many factors ranging from actions by the driver during the split-seconds before impact to defects in the car to the overall negligence that led to it, but I can tell ya that if you bet on the belted occupant surviving every time, you would be ahead by a lot.

That being said, when it comes to pedestrians, they are simply S.O.L. in such a contest of physics.


By JediJeb on 6/22/2010 11:53:25 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Principle remains, is the belts making people irresponsible? Same goes for this, people should be increasingly aware with these vehicles... but we all know how people can be.


Is is a proven fact that when helmets were first required for Hockey players, the number of neck injuries almost doubled the next year. Simple reason was with a helmet the player wasn't as afraid to injure their head, and more were careless about sliding into the wall head first. False sense of security can be a dangerous thing.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By Jexel17 on 6/21/2010 3:30:52 PM , Rating: 5
Coming soon: Mufflers banned to assist the hard of hearing.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By kake on 6/21/2010 4:52:10 PM , Rating: 5
The classic, "loud pipes save lives," huh?


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By YashBudini on 6/21/2010 5:18:51 PM , Rating: 1
Unfortunately the excess posterior orifices that ride loud bikes actually believe this urban myth. Either that or that's just the excuse they use to justify their nonsense.

The other day one of those bikes came out of a driveway and raced down the neighborhood street. On one porch was an infant sleeping, that is until the biker went by. After that the kid was still screaming while its mother tried to calm it down.

It takes a really tough guy to do that to an infant, doesn't it? It's bad enough they can't distinguish betweem respect and fear, but to torture babies and small animals, well I'm sure FitCamaro will come along and state his usual, "I don't give a shit.", which apparently makes it just.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By lelias2k on 6/21/2010 5:21:34 PM , Rating: 3
Or the traditional "I want what I want" whine. :)


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By YashBudini on 6/21/2010 5:38:51 PM , Rating: 1
Well the irony about loud bikers is when you enforce any noise ordinances they get really whiny and say stuff like, "They are trying to take my rights away." So you get WAHHHHHH! no matter what you do.


By walk2k on 6/21/2010 6:03:04 PM , Rating: 3
What's the difference between a Harley and a vacuum cleaner?

The size of the dirtbag attached to the back.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By Regected on 6/21/2010 7:30:05 PM , Rating: 4
Don't forget to mention that the day before, the same mom almost hit a biker while she was trying to calm her baby in the back seat while driving down the road. The poor biker had a super quiet muffler and was never seen.

Give me a freaking break. I've ridden every day for the past 6 years, and can say, that without a doubt, loud pipes HAVE saved my life. People don't look for bikes, so at least they can hear me. Talk to a few bikers who have had friends killed by ignorant drivers before dishing out crap about a baby getting woken up while sleeping outside.


By Lazarus Dark on 6/21/2010 7:58:48 PM , Rating: 2
When the good weather came around this year... within one week I passed 6 (!) accidents where a biker was on the ground after being hit by a car. I'm not a biker, but I know several, including my mom. And I can definately say most drivers are NOT paying attention. Quite frankly, I don't even think a loud muffler or a sound synthesizer is going to help. These idiots will still hit someone either way.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By Creig on 6/22/2010 9:21:24 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
I've ridden every day for the past 6 years, and can say, that without a doubt, loud pipes HAVE saved my life. People don't look for bikes, so at least they can hear me. Talk to a few bikers who have had friends killed by ignorant drivers before dishing out crap about a baby getting woken up while sleeping outside.

Pure and utter B.S. You've ridden the past 6 years? I'm 42 and have been riding street bikes since I was 16, so that makes it 26 years for me. And not once was I ever in a situation where I thought to myself later, "Boy, if only I had loud pipes I might have avoided that close call".

Oncoming traffic and motorists at side streets don't hear you until AFTER you've gone past them because your exhaust noise is directed behind you. Which doesn't prevent anything. The only situation where loud pipes might alert a car driver is if they're lane changing on a multi-lane highway and you're alongside them in their blind spot. Even then, all you need is a loud horn on your bike if they start to move over into your lane, then they swerve back.

If noisy exhaust was really such a miraculous life saver, then all cars/trucks/semis would be running straight pipes right from the factory.

Face it, the "Loud Pipes Save Lives" crap is simply an excuse to uncork your exhaust because you think it sounds "cool". I, and many other bikers, think it makes you sound like a douche.


By jRaskell on 6/22/2010 9:37:29 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Oncoming traffic and motorists at side streets don't hear you until AFTER you've gone past them because your exhaust noise is directed behind you.


Now THAT is pure and utter B.S.! I can hear a bloody straight pipe Harley coming from several blocks away, nevermind hear him 100 feet from the intersection we're both approaching.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By LRonaldHubbs on 6/21/10, Rating: -1
RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By thurston on 6/22/2010 8:57:26 PM , Rating: 1
No South Park fans here?


By VooDooAddict on 6/23/2010 10:09:37 PM , Rating: 2
I guess not. That or people are in to serious a mood.


By jjmcubed on 6/21/2010 7:03:34 PM , Rating: 2
To bad they can't comprehend the Doppler effect...


By FaceMaster on 6/22/2010 5:31:50 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Coming soon: Mufflers banned to assist the hard of hearing.


Mufflers banned to increase the number who are hard of hearing...


By HotFoot on 6/21/2010 4:07:59 PM , Rating: 2
Fair enough regarding a call for more responsible drivers, but as a non-impaired person my first line of defense is looking out for myself. I don't just dash out onto the street as soon as I see the signal turn to "walk", and I've seen a lot of cars run red lights.

That said, I'm not for extra noise in the city. I'd rather see some form of solution that goes along with the blind person to assist them (technological or otherwise), versus adding more to the sea of noise we already live in.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By spread on 6/21/2010 4:29:53 PM , Rating: 3
Today's cars give you a false sense of security so people slack off, and it doesn't help that auto manufacturers are helping make people even MORE disconnected from their vehicles with all sorts of gizmos that help drive FOR you in some cases.

There's cars that parallel park and brake for you now!

We need to get back to the basics and have people be in control of their own damn cars.


By afkrotch on 6/21/2010 7:51:33 PM , Rating: 2
Remember the time, when the automatic braking Volvo, forgot to brake and slammed into the back of a vehicle. Good times, good times.


By VahnTitrio on 6/21/2010 4:50:15 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention that most cars are pretty quiet anyway. The only time I think my engine emits more noise than the tires on pavement is when I accelerate. So unless the pavement up here is a lot noisier than the rest of the world, I don't see how an EV without an alert system is any different than a smooth running gasoline sedan.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By lelias2k on 6/21/2010 5:01:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't think that 0.3% of the population should be overly concerned about this.


While I agree with your post in general, you only say that because you're not part of the 0.3%...


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By Kurz on 6/21/2010 5:14:04 PM , Rating: 2
That .3% has better hearing than you or I.


By lelias2k on 6/21/2010 5:19:59 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe, but would you give up your vision for better hearing? Do you consider that a 1-to-1 exchange?

And I'm pretty sure being able to hear cars from farther away is an added benefit for a blind person. They can sure use it.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By Anoxanmore on 6/21/2010 5:25:10 PM , Rating: 2
No they don't. Their hearing is the same as any non-blind person. They may pay attention to it more, but it is not super-human, nor super-natural in any way.


By YashBudini on 6/21/2010 5:47:26 PM , Rating: 2
And they will get age related hearing loss like anybody else.


By Gnoad on 6/21/2010 6:04:05 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps he was dictating.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/21/2010 5:55:31 PM , Rating: 5
You forget though, this is the new activists American. Where the needs of the few, outweigh the needs of the many. Minority rule!!


By YashBudini on 6/21/2010 5:56:39 PM , Rating: 2
Pffft, this has been Harley logic for decades.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By Mr Perfect on 6/21/2010 7:53:38 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Where the needs of the few, outweigh the needs of the many.


Make the Leaf sound like the Enterprise and all the tech geeks will be cool with this. Unless of course some want it to sound like a Klingon vessel.

Or a TIE fighter.

Or a Cylon raider.

Or that jeep from Halo.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By JediJeb on 6/22/2010 12:02:31 PM , Rating: 2
TIE sounds would be cool. Can we also get the blaster firing effect to use when people try to cross the street in front of us, that would be an even better warning to the blind if they don't heed the crossing signals.


By geddarkstorm on 6/22/2010 2:35:33 PM , Rating: 2
That should be the horn sound. Although, I've always been personally fond of the rebel snow speeders.


RE: I'm not trying to be insensitive...
By marvdmartian on 6/22/2010 10:48:28 AM , Rating: 2
I just don't see what their problem is.....really!!


By geddarkstorm on 6/22/2010 2:37:00 PM , Rating: 2
Some people are just blind to others needs.


By mindless1 on 6/22/2010 1:12:48 PM , Rating: 2
Well I'll be insensitive then. THEY are the ones who are disabled, THEY should be fitted with a sonar warning device so that they are protected from not just certain quiet cars but anything coming their way.


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