FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: 
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Category: 
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

National Federation of the Blind Teams with Chevrolet and GM to Incorporate a Safe Sound Alert for Electric Vehicles and Hybrids

DETROIT – Chevrolet, General Motors and the National Federation of the Blind are cooperating to identify a safe level of sound to alert the blind and other pedestrians to the presence of near silent-running electric and hybrid vehicles.

“We are confident electric vehicles can produce a safe and acceptable level of sound to alert blind pedestrians to their presence,” said John Paré, NFB executive director of strategic initiatives. “We look forward to working with Chevrolet and GM to identify an appropriate sound that will alert pedestrians in the most effective and least disruptive way possible.”

Members of the National Federation of the Blind and engineers from GM began meeting earlier this year to understand the safety needs of pedestrians with respect to quiet vehicles, and to work on solutions for the benefit of pedestrians, cyclists, runners, children and other members of the public.

Several NFB members recently experienced a demonstration of the pedestrian warning alert on a pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle driven at various speeds by chief engineer Andrew Farah. While visiting GM’s Milford Proving Ground, they also evaluated the alert from the front, sides and rear of the car.

“We have significant background in the area of pedestrian alerts dating to our work on our first electric car, the EV1,” Farah said, “The most important thing is to listen to the people who will interact with these vehicles in everyday life.”

Deborah Kent Stein, who chairs the NFB’s Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety, said, “A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) demonstrated that the silent operation of hybrid vehicles is an issue for all pedestrians, not just the blind. In certain situations, electric or hybrid vehicles are twice as likely to be involved in collisions with pedestrians. The NFB looks forward to working with the safety agency in the crafting of appropriate standards establishing an acceptable level of minimum vehicle sound.”

“The National Federation of the Blind appreciates the opportunity to work with General Motors on this problem,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “We urge all automobile manufacturers to work with the blind in designing vehicle sounds to alert us to the approach, speed and direction of vehicles so that both drivers and pedestrians can safely use America’s roadways.”

About the National Federation of the Blind

With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people’s lives through advocacy, education, research, technology and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind. Please visit our web site: www.nfb.org.

About General Motors

General Motors, one of the world's largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 209,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in some 140 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 34 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the new General Motors can be found at www.gm.com.