Stein, who is blind and prides herself on being attuned to sound, says she was shocked to find she couldn't hear hybrids. While she listened from the sidewalk on a quiet side street, she heard a friend climb into his Toyota Prius and slam the door. After that, she heard nothing as her friend drove to the end of the block, backed up and drove away again.What do they propose be done about this? Make the cars louder.
John Rae, president the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians. urges manufacturers to act "before individuals are killed because they could not hear an oncoming quiet hybrid."Frankly adding noise to cars seems like a major mistake. Noise increases stress, even white noise, so reducing noise pollution is an important goal. Governments should offer incentives for automakers to reduce noise emissions in their cars, not mandate minimum noise levels. The proper solution to this problem will lie in technology: cars can be outfitted with transmitters that are inaudible without a special machine. This press release from the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians suggests that this is not an appropriate solution as it will not let blind people "read" an intersection the way they do now, however I am sure there is a solution to this problem: simply transmit a low power signal that can be picked up by a hearing-aid-like device. With proper care this signal can mimic the directionality that is required for accurate reading, and as a bonus it can even transmit encoded details, such as whether the car is slowing, stopped, or accelerating.
Options discussed include using sound from the radiator fan or building something into the axle that would emit sound as the wheels rotate.
Hopefully the government won't jump to mandate the solution to this problem without consideration of the alternatives. Adding noise to cars is the worst possible outcome.