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EBU Position Paper on Silent Vehicles - EUROPEAN BLIND UNION

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EBU Position Paper on Silent Vehicles - EUROPEAN BLIND UNION Powered By Docstoc
					SILENT CARS AND PEDESTRIAN SAFETY The European Blind Union (EBU) is a European non-governmental organisation representing the interests of visually disabled Europeans. EBU is strongly committed to the full inclusion of people with disabilities and works in cooperation with a number of stakeholders, including ANEC to implement the Design For All principles. This paper outlines EBU’s position as regards the new generation of virtually silent vehicles. 1. Hybrid and electric vehicles are increasingly popular as they appear as a positive answer to rising concerns about harmful gas emissions, the need for brave new directions in a struggling automobile industry and unstable fuel prices. Blind and partially sighted people welcome this beneficial trend just as much as other European citizens do, as long as this technology also proves to be safe and inclusive of all pedestrians. 2. Hybrid and electric vehicles operate on fuel-powered engines when driving fast and revert to a virtually silent electric motor when idling and travelling at slow speed. This poses a threat of injury or death to those who rely mainly on their hearing to assess whether it is safe to cross the street. Other pedestrians such as young children, seniors, runners, cyclists, or simply inattentive walkers are also at increased risk. In their current stage of development, therefore, hybrid and electric vehicles are not fully in line with Design for All principles. 3. Like their normally sighted peers, blind and partially sighted people, including those with a hearing impairment, have a right to travel safely and independently to their workplaces, schools and other places in their communities. University of California research findings clearly show that this right is threatened as hybrid vehicles must be 60 percent closer to pedestrians than combustion-engine cars for their location to be accurately determined audibly. During the tests, the

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electric Toyota Prius was not heard until it was 3.30 metres from blindfolded volunteers. 4. A balanced approach to preserving the safety of all pedestrians and reducing noise pollution can be achieved if hybrid and electric vehicles emit a sound that is much lower than the standard noise but easy to detect. “We are not talking about major changes to the way automobiles are designed, but about slightly increasing their audibility when they are travelling slowly” said Lawrence Rosemblum, researcher and adviser to the Society of Automotive Engineers. 5. While research is still under way, designers are suggesting that low tech and low cost external sound devices could be the answer. On-going European initiatives include the successful partnership between Guide Dogs UK and Lotus Engineering to develop an external sound technology for use on hybrid vehicles. 6. Whilst EBU is supportive of “green” vehicles, we also believe that further research is needed to investigate the safety implications for pedestrians and to thoroughly explore adequate solutions. Today more than ever, it also remains vital to promote safe driving practices such as driving slowly and paying attention to pedestrian traffic. The challenge is now to identify a technology that is both environmentallyfriendly and safe for pedestrians, thus benefiting all. The key points are 1. Hybrid and electric vehicles are beneficial in that they are greener, but they pose a safety threat because they cannot be detected audibly. 2. This safety threat affects a wide range of pedestrians: blind and partially sighted people, including those with a hearing impairment, people with other disabilities, young children, seniors, runners, cyclists, and any inattentive pedestrian. 3. Research clearly shows that visually impaired citizens’ right to safe and independent mobility is threatened by silent cars. 4. A balanced approach to preserving the safety of all pedestrians and reducing noise pollution can be achieved if hybrid and

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electric vehicles emit a sound that is much lower than the standard noise but easy to detect. 5. Design research is currently looking at low tech and low cost options. These are being tested on existing vehicles. 6. EBU believes that further research is needed to address this issue and to make sure that green and quiet vehicles are also safe to all pedestrians. About this paper We are happy for our contribution to be made public. For further information or clarification, please contact Sarah Ghlamallah, Information Officer. EBU Office : 58 avenue Bosquet, 75007 Paris, France Tel : +33 1 47 05 38 20, Fax : +33 1 47 05 21 E-mail : ebu@euroblind.org

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posted:10/30/2009
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