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Bill Will Study How to Protect Blind from Silent Cars

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Senators Arlen Specter and John Kerry introduced a bill that will require the government to conduct a study about how to protect the blind from silent cars— like hybrids, or range-extended electrics are when running on electricity, before the engine kicks in.

The bill is called the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. The problem according to Senators is that many of the new electric and hybrid vehicles produce little or no noise making them hazardous to the blind and visually impaired pedestrian, who relies on engine noise to judge the distance, speed and whereabouts of cars as they navigate roads and crosswalks.

”The National Federation of the Blind appreciates the wise and decisive action taken today by Senators Kerry and Specter to preserve the right to safe and independent travel for the blind. The blind, like all pedestrians, must be able to travel to work, to school, to church, and to other places in our communities without being injured or killed. This bill will benefit all pedestrians for generations to come as new vehicle technologies become more prevalent. The blind of
America will do everything in our power to ensure its swift passage," Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind said in a statement.
The system consists of a 300-watt speaker, a throttle position sensor, amplifier
and synthesis controller. The system would produce engine sounds that would
rise and fall -- just like the sounds of a combustion engine -- during acceleration.

The safety advocates have been talking about this issue for a while. Guide Dogs for the Blind have begun incorporating hybrids into its training, teaching students and their dogs to be aware that hybrids can sneak up on them.

The bill could affect silent cars by forcing automakers to use a system that produces artificial noise. Lotus has already developed a system called Lotus Sound Synthesis that uses speakers under a vehicle to add some extra sound.

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