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It has been postulated that electric cars will be silent killers, especially for blind people. Some have suggested using some kind of noise generator on these cars to prevent this, in fact making them mandatory. The problem is that one of the nice things about electric cars is how quiet they are, so
having to create noise artificially would seem to add to general noise pollution unnecessarily.
Why not make the sound on-demand instead of constant? Blind people could be given a remote control to activate a special noise from the car (like key-fobs for car alarms). Each button press would activate all moving cars within a certain distance to make the sound for 10 seconds. Several random tones would be best so that each car makes a unique sound.
This could also be used instead of the annoying chirp sound currently broadcast at some intersections for walk/don't walk.
This would eliminate a lot of noise pollution that is not necessary 99% of the time.
To go really high-tech, the noise could be virtual, with the blind person carrying a device which would detect nearby car transponders, and make appropriate noises in a headset, directionally correct for the wearer's orientation.
Here's your halo, speakers not included
[normzone, Oct 14 2009]
||To get full doppler effect, I think that your target user would need to wear a halo of speakers.
||No, [norm], because the headset would simulate the doppler effect based on head orientation and movement sensors. [+]
||//the blind person carrying a device which would detect
nearby car transponders// I think this would be the best
solution, and it could be constantly active (ie, the car is
always sending out a signal which can be received by a unit
carried by a blind person).
||I appreciate that this places an additional burden on the
blind (why should they have to carry a gadget to detect
sighted drivers' cars?), but the alternatives have an adverse
impact on the much greater numbers of sighted
||In fact, a system of transponders (for pedestrian crossings,
shops, whatever) and a universal receiver for the blind
could serve a multitude of porpoises. Or perhaps such a
system already exists.
||It is an 'all pedestrian' problem, not just a 'blind person ' problem.
You cannot hear a car in the road.
At least cyclists have a bell (some of them, when they choose to use it, along with the Highway Code).
||So, legislate that all cars be fitted with a little bell that goes 'ting ting'. Much more human-scale than an air-horn.
||In the long term, this is a silly system. Cars happen to have
made unpleasant noises for the first hundred years of their
existence, and we've got used to this and now rely on it. We
just have to adapt to a world where cars don't make as much
noise. Deaf people seem to manage reasonably well.
||Despite the fact that I am blind, and a friend in Topeka has already come up with a sound generator for his Zenn, I think it's a shame that the cars have to make any more noise than the tires make on the road because of the noise polution side of things. If all cars were electric and quiet it would be OK, except in noisy areas or on windy days, except I would miss the cues one gets from the idling car waiting with you at the light. I grew up in Glendale Arizona and didn't hear an audible traffic light until I went to ASU in Tempe in 1994, so that idling car was the best clue. When it goes, you can go. Just because you hear no perpendicular cars for a few seconds doesn't mean the light turned green, and by the time you hear a parallel one pass, you might be about out of time, best wait for the next cycle. The idea that some sonar device will negate the need for one to know with some certainty when the walk sign comes on is dumb when considering any semibusy intersection. I'm still going to have to sweep it around to find an idling car if I don't have the signal.
The sonar devices and laser canes are great, but just like the money identifiers and everything else that isn't mass produced, they're very expensive. The ones I've played with are just a wand that works only in the direction your pointing in anyway. It would need to sweep quickly to detect a moving vehicle well before it reaches the point directly in front of you. A device with a camera might be a better bet.
You might be interested to know that in Spain, as my friends there tell me, they carry a device to activate the audible traffic signal. Problem is, they have to have a different one for each city, there's no standard. There are also audible signals in the US that only sound if someone pushes the button on the pole. There's a talking one on one busy corner in downtown Topeka Kansas, even I think that one's obnoxious, it's constantly either talking or beeping, counting down the seconds until you can cross. Useful, convenient, but obnoxious just the same. You can hear it from a block away.
One more little factoid, deaf blind people hold up a card that says something like "I am deaf and blind, I need help crossing the street, please tap my shoulder." I forget the exact words, but they could be standing there a while before someone comes along.