The NHTSA has only one published report claiming a hybrid/EV pedestrian hazard, DOT HS 811 204, and in Table 6a "Vehicle maneuver prior to pedstrian crashes HEVs vs. ICE vehicles" we find:
19 - turning incidents
7 - backing incidents
These were claimed to be enough to show a higher risk. This very thin statistical data was used to make an inflated claim about relative 'percentages' in DOT HS 811 204. Read it, look at the numbers, and ask yourself "where is the smoking gun?" It isn't there.
At least three independent Prius owners went to the NHTSA Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) database to find evidence of higher Prius-pedestrian accidents and the data isn't there. Dr. Christopher Hogan found SUV and pickup trucks are much more hazardous to pedestrians. My study found the Prius to have half the fatality rate as the NHTSA reported fleet rate. And a thrid study found similar results.
Sad to say, this law, S.841, is built upon a weak evidence. Because of this, effective pedestrian safety systems such as collision detection and lane following are delayed. It will become effective on new hybrids and EVs in five years and at best, it will make hybrids just as deadly as today's ordinary vehicles because it uses the same, failing technology, a noise that only the pedestrian has to detect and act upon.
. . .I guess I have been on the road too long, but back when I learned to drive, one of the test questions involved sounding the horn gently when approaching a person carrying a white cane with a red tip. Perhaps this world of political correctness has done too much to mask physical handicaps and we have forgotten how to be considerate.
In the interim, think back 50 years. . .1961. . .Fred McMurray playing Ned Brainerd, the absent-minded professor. Seems to me he had fake model-T noises to disguise his alternative fuel vehicle. He even turned them off when flying peacefully among the clouds. I guess we see another old idea come back around.
Obviously drivers need to be careful when approaching an intersection and should always yield to pedestrians. However, suppose a pedestrian is stopped at a streetcorner where there is no stop sign, traffic signal, or marked crossing. A driver might slow down but not stop, assuming that the pedestrian is aware of the oncoming vehicle and will not suddenly step out into the street. Drivers make all sorts of assumptions like this, which are completely rational if the pedestrian is sighted but not if the pedestrian is blind.
Dave, the driver doesn't need to know if a pedestrian is blind or sighted. All they need to know is that it's a person, and you need to be careful wen approaching an intersection. Maybe I'm missing something in this thread.
Charles, thanks for making this important point. Obviously drivers have a responsibility to drive safely, but it is unreasonable to expect drivers to be able to determine whether a pedestrian is blind. I'm not sure that adding a noise is the best thing, but it makes sense to investigate how best to protect blind people. This is a good example of the unintended consequences of new technologies. It may be preferable to deal with this issue through administrative rulemaking than to leave it up to the chaotic world of class-action suits (which is what will happen if enough blind people are hit by hybrids).
I get hives when the government goes nanny on us. GM may have the best solution with its driver-controlled soft noise. Yet, many drivers don't bother to use their turn signals, so why would we expect them to give a pedestrian warning. Ugh. I just can't see deliberately increasing noise pollution.
I agree with Jenn. The burden is on the driver to be careful. The last thing we need is a weird new barrage of noise. Isn’t the purpose of the alert sound on walk signals to allow visually disabled individuals to cross? What about bikes approaching intersections – will they also be required to emit sounds? What about people who are walking but are oblivious because they are texting or talking on their cell phones?
A big part of the debate here is that NHTSA is most concerned with blind pedestrians. Electric cars are creepily quiet and blind pedestrians have virtually no way of knowing the vehicles are approaching. At the same time, drivers don't always have a chance to look and see if a pedstrian is blind, nor do they always have sufficient reaction time if a pedestrian unknowingly steps in front of their vehicle.
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Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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