Saturday, June 14

Comments on quiet cars

Greetings. I received the following message from an email list. It looks like the information on the dangers of quiet cars is finally getting some attention. Enjoy, please excuse any formatting or web address errors, and consider submitting your own comments to the relevant people. Also, thanks to Larry from the Disability Nation podcast for submitting his comment on the May 17th post on quiet cars. Please read what he has to say and visit their site to hear the quiet cars podcasts that he has.


 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
[Docket No. NHTSA-2008-0108]
 Quiet Cars Notice of Public Meeting and Request for Comments
AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),
Department of Transportation (DOT).
ACTION: Notice of public meeting, request for information.
SUMMARY: NHTSA is having a public meeting to bring together government
policymakers, stakeholders from the blind community, industry
representatives and public interest groups to discuss the safety of
blind pedestrians encountering quiet cars including hybrids, all-
electric vehicles and quiet internal combustion engine vehicles. This
public meeting and the request for information, is an opportunity for
an exchange among interested parties, as well as the public, on the
technical and safety policy issues related to increasingly quieter cars
and blind pedestrians. The date, time, location, and framework for this
public meeting are announced in this notice.
DATES: Public Meeting: The public meeting will be held on June 23,
2008, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt Washington, Washington,
    Comments: Written comments may be submitted to the agency and must
be received no later than August 1, 2008.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mrs. Debbie Ascone, Office of the
Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety, NHTSA, telephone
202-366-4383, e-mail
. She may also be reached at
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590.
ADDRESSES: Public meeting: The public meeting will be held at the Grand
Hyatt Washington, 1000 H Street, NW., Washington, DC 20001, telephone: 202-

    Written comments: Written comments on this meeting and topic must
refer to the docket number of this notice and be submitted by any of
the following methods:

     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to
. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
     Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
     Mail: Docket Management Facility, M-30, U.S. Department of
Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Rm. W12-140, 1200 New
Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590.
     Hand Delivery: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140,
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., between 9 am and 5 pm Eastern Time, Monday
through Friday, except Federal holidays.
    Regardless of how you submit your comments, you should mention the
docket number of this document.
    You may call the Docket Management Facility at 202-366-9826.
    Instructions: For detailed instructions on submitting comments, see
the Procedural Matters section of this document. Note that all comments
received will be posted without change to,
including any personal information provided.
    According to R.L. Polk & Co, registration for new hybrid vehicles
rose to 350,289 registrations in 2007.\1\ While hybrid vehicles remain
a small portion of new registered vehicles, registrations of hybrids
increased 38% from 2006 to 2007. A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is
more commonly defined as a vehicle which combines a conventional
propulsion system (such as a gasoline or diesel engine) with an
electric motor and has an on-board rechargeable energy storage system
(such as batteries) to achieve better fuel economy than a conventional
vehicle. HEVs prolong the charge on their batteries by capturing
kinetic energy via regenerative braking, and some HEVs can use the
combustion engine to generate electricity by spinning an electrical
generator (often a motor-generator) to either recharge the battery or
directly feed power to an electric motor that drives the vehicle. All
HEVs have a start/stop system which can turn off the engine at idle and
restart it when needed. Some hybrids are capable of being driven by
only the electric motor at lower speeds (generally up to 25 mph). As
such, these vehicles can be significantly quieter than conventional
gasoline powered vehicles.
    Deborah Kent Stein discusses an emerging problem with HEVs in the
    ``When the hybrid is traveling at low speeds, the electric motor
is very quiet. The problem arises when a hybrid car, powered by its
electric motor, is traveling at slow to moderate speeds--as when it
moves along a side street, emerges from a driveway or parking lot,
or starts up after a red light or stop sign. Under these
circumstances the engine is silent, and there is little or no sound
from tire friction or wind resistance. In addition nearly all
hybrids come to a full stop at red lights or stop signs, shutting
off the engine completely. The engine does not idle, emitting a low,
telltale purr. It makes no sound at all. A blind traveler has no
indication that a car is present and preparing to move forward at
any moment.'' \2\
    \2\ Stop, Look, and Listen: Quiet Vehicles and Pedestrian Safety
by Deborah Kent Stein; from: The Braille Monitor, June 2005.
    Mrs. Stein, chairman for the National Federation of the Blind
(NFB), Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety/Quiet Cars made
this statement in the article ``Stop, Look and Listen: Quiet Vehicles
and Pedestrian Safety,'' in the June 2005 issue of The Braille Monitor.
NHTSA recognizes this is a potential safety problem and is responding
to the concern and investigating the hazard of quieter vehicles to
pedestrians, cyclists and others who need to be aware of approaching
cars that are out of their line of sight.
    While the size of the specific problem is currently unknown, the
total number of pedestrian crashes in 2006 was 65,404 resulting in
4,784 fatalities and an estimated 61,000 injuries.
    Since August 2007, NHTSA has been working through the Society of
Automotive Engineers International (SAE) to identify effective ways to
address the safety issue with quieter vehicles. The Alliance of
Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International
Automobile Manufacturers, along with the SAE have formed the Vehicle
Sound for Pedestrians Subcommittee under the SAE Safety and Human
Factors Committee.\3\ This subcommittee, Vehicle Sounds for Pedestrians
(VSP), created the three following Task Forces to gather information to
assist in determining the technical approaches to address the problem:
Audience for specification, target sound level, and type of sound and
driving conditions for the sound. The VSP subcommittee is currently
working to both define the issue and understand the conditions in which
these types of incidents occur and expects to propose and evaluate
different methods to address the issues as these factors are better
    Further work of the VSP subcommittee will explore: who will benefit
from the establishment of a minimum sound level for motor vehicles,
what that sound level should be and the type of sound that will be
necessary to have the desired effect, and under what vehicle and
ambient conditions the sound is required to be heard and measured. The
subcommittee is currently in the data gathering stage: what incidents
have happened, where, and under what conditions. Different data sources
have been identified and approached. Concurrently, the task force on
sound measurement is preparing an outline for a test procedure to
measure vehicle operating sounds.
    Thus far, this group of human factors experts also includes a
member of the American Council for the Blind and a representative of
NHTSA. The group is regularly meeting at four-week intervals to study
possible ways of improving the detection of quiet cars by pedestrians
and to explore the feasibility of proposing an SAE Recommended
Practice. In addition to the SAE initiative, NFB has commissioned Dr.
Lawrence Rosenblum at the University of California-Riverside to
investigate the sound made by hybrids and people's ability to detect
them. At Stanford University, with financial help from the NFB,
researchers have developed a prototype sound generating device that
receives information about the vehicle function and transmits the
information to speakers placed on the vehicle. While this vehicle-based
system is one potential countermeasure for quieter vehicles, NHTSA, the
automotive industry and the SAE subcommittee will continue their
efforts to identify the most appropriate and effective countermeasures.
In the United States House of Representatives, a bill has been
introduced entitled the ``Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2008,''
which, if enacted, requires the Secretary of Transportation to study
and establish a motor vehicle safety standard that provides for a means
of alerting blind and other pedestrians of motor vehicle operation.\4\
Additionally, in December 2007, NHTSA met with representatives of the
NFB to discuss this issue.
[[Page 31189]]
Public Meeting
    NHTSA is having this public meeting to discuss the technical and
safety policy issues associated with the increasing presence of quieter
cars and the risks to blind pedestrians. The meeting will bring
together State and local government policy makers, stakeholders in the
blind community, industry representatives and public interest groups.
    The meeting will be open to the public, but presentations will be
by invitation only. Time will be designated for open floor discussion
by the general audience. Meeting participants and the public are also
invited to submit comments on this issue to the docket. All materials
to be presented are asked to be submitted to NHTSA in advance for
appropriate dissemination to visually impaired attendees.
    The sections below describe the discussion of topics for the
Statement of Problem
    Representatives of the blind community will discuss the problem
facing blind pedestrians around quieter vehicles. The discussion should
include the explanation and known size of the problem. The
presentations should identify specific situations in which vehicles are
hard to hear, the sound cues that are necessary in detecting a vehicle
and which of those cues are absent in those problematic locations. To
gain a better understanding of the desired outcome to this problem,
representatives of the blind community should discuss general ways to
increase the safety of blind pedestrians and potential solutions--both
desirable and undesirable to the blind community.
Pedestrian Safety
    Pedestrian safety is a difficult but important issue both
nationally and internationally. Presentations should discuss pedestrian
safety in general as well as specifically related to the blind
community. Any known incidents with pedestrians, in general and
involving the blind, and quieter vehicles will be detailed. Data
collection challenges should also be discussed as well as the needs to
improve this data collection. There will also be discussion of current
technologies to aide the blind community in safer pedestrian travel. A
NHTSA representative will discuss ongoing and planned activities for
pedestrian safety, identifying potential activities that could be
enhanced for the blind. A representative from the international vehicle
safety community will present information about the problem globally as
well as work in other nations to address pedestrians and quieter
vehicles. The discussion should also include international standards
for pedestrian safety and any potential solutions for this problem that
have been researched internationally.
Sound Measurement and Mobility
    In developing a solution to assist blind pedestrians around quieter
cars, a few fundamental questions must be addressed. Presentations on
this topic should include discussions of which sounds of a vehicle
should be measured and the means by which to measure that sound. Any
studies into this area should also be included. Sound experts should
also describe average noise levels as reference points for the audience
as well as extreme noise levels--both low and high extremes. A mobility
expert should discuss sound cues for blind individuals and any
measurement studies related to the field. There should also be
discussion on mobility in rural areas and locations that lack the
infrastructure for technology.
Automotive Industry Perspective
    A representative from the automobile industry should speak about
how the industry is addressing the problem. The discussion should
include information on what current and future vehicles would qualify
as quiet cars as well as what features of the car cause the reduction
in sound. The automobile industry representative should also discuss
what the industry is willing to commit to, product development and lead
time for vehicle-based solutions.
SAE Work and Status
    As was discussed previously, SAE has a subcommittee dedicated to
this topic and has active working groups looking at specific details.
An SAE spokesperson will discuss the process in general and the current
status of this work. Additional details of the working groups should be
laid out at the meeting and the representative should describe the
needs of the subcommittee to continue work and expedite both the work
and the process.
Potential Solutions
    Research into potential ways to address this issue should include
vehicle-, person-, and infrastructure-based approaches. Presentations
should include current and past research into each of these areas,
literature and conclusions from such. Product development,
effectiveness, lead time, cost and public acceptance of solutions
should also be discussed. Any potential solution that is currently
marketed or planned for market would be included in this discussion as
well as the history of the development of the product.
Noise Abatement
    While the lower sound of vehicles presents a safety concern for
blind pedestrians, it also provides a solution to the health concern
arising from noise pollution. Presentations on this topic should
include federal and local perspective on noise pollution as well as the
jurisdiction of noise pollution laws. The discussion should also
include studies about what levels of sound are dangerous to health and
studies into the magnification of sound presented by large numbers of
vehicles or vehicles in confined spaces. Current or planned efforts to
reduce the sound emitted by vehicles should also be discussed along
with supporting research into determination of said maximum levels.
Procedural Matters
    The meeting will be open to the public with advanced registration
for seating on a space-available basis. Individuals wishing to register
to assure a seat in the public seating area should provide their name,
affiliation, phone number and e-mail address to Mrs. Debbie Ascone
using the contact information at the beginning of this notice. Should
it be necessary to cancel the meeting due to an emergency or some other
reason, NHTSA will take all available means to notify registered
participants by e-mail or telephone.
    The meeting will be held at a site accessible to individuals with
disabilities. Individuals who require accommodations such as sign
language interpreters should contact Ms. Debbie Ascone by June 16,
2008. All written materials to be presented at the meeting will be
available electronically on the day of the meeting to accommodate the
needs of the visually impaired. A transcript of the meeting and other
information received by NHTSA at the meeting will be placed in the
docket for this notice at a later date.
How can I submit comments on this subject?
    It is not necessary to attend or to speak at the public meeting to
be able to comment on the issues. NHTSA invites readers to submit
written comments which the agency will consider in its research and
proceedings with the safety of quiet cars and pedestrians.
How do I prepare and submit comments?
    Your comments must be written and in English. To ensure that your
[[Page 31190]]
comments are correctly filed in the Docket, please include the docket
number of this document in your comments.
    Your primary comments must not be more than 15 pages long (49 CFR 553.21). However, you may attach additional documents to your primary comments. There is no limit on the length of the attachments.
    Anyone is able to search the electronic form of all comments received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.). You may review DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement in the Federal Register published on
April 11, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 70; Pages 19477-78) or you may visit
How can I be sure that my comments were received?
    If you wish Docket Management to notify you upon its receipt of
your comments, enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard in the
envelope containing your comments. Upon receiving your comments, Docket
Management will return the postcard by mail.
How do I submit confidential business information?
    If you wish to submit any information under a claim of
confidentiality, send three copies of your complete submission,
including the information you claim to be confidential business
information, to the Chief Counsel, National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., Washington, DC 20590.
Include a cover letter supplying the information specified in our
confidential business information regulation (49 CFR part 512).
    In addition, send two copies from which you have deleted the
claimed confidential business information to Docket Management, 1200
New Jersey Ave., SE., West Building, Room W12-140, Washington, DC
20590, or submit them electronically, in the manner described at the
beginning of this notice.
Will the agency consider late comments?
    We will consider all comments that Docket Management receives
before the close of business on the comment closing date indicated
above under DATES. To the extent possible, we will also consider
comments that Docket Management receives after that date.
    Please note that even after the comment closing date, we will
continue to file relevant information in the docket as it becomes
available. Further, some people may submit late comments. Accordingly,
we recommend that you periodically check the docket for new material.
How can I read the comments submitted by other people?
    You may read the materials placed in the docket for this document
(e.g., the comments submitted in response to this document by other
interested persons) at any time by going to
Follow the online instructions for accessing the dockets. You may also
read the materials at the Docket Management Facility by going to the
street address given above under ADDRESSES. The Docket Management
Facility is open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through
Friday, except Federal holidays.
    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30111, 30168; delegation of authority at 49
CFR 1.50 and 501.8.
Ronald L. Medford,
Senior Associate Administrator, Vehicle Safety.
[FR Doc. E8-12041 Filed 5-29-08; 8:45 am]

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