The government feels blind concern for silent cars

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Electric and hybrid cars on Australian roads seem destined to emit warning sounds to minimize the risk to blind or visually impaired pedestrians.

The National Transport and Infrastructure Council met in Adelaide in August to discuss potential changes to road regulations, including the addition of a "vehicle acoustic warning system" to cars that run almost silently at low speed.

As a result, at the beginning of next year the federal government will launch a public consultation process to determine how to deal with the problem of electric cars and people who have difficulty seeing them.

The news was welcomed by Vision Australia, according to which electric cars represent a "significant challenge" for visually impaired pedestrians.

A survey published by Vision Australia and the Monash University Accident Research Center in October 2018 found that 35 people with vision problems experienced "a collision or almost a collision with an electric / hybrid vehicle".

About 74% of respondents said that "the introduction of electric / hybrid vehicles on Australian roads has reduced their confidence in walking and crossing roads".

Chris Edwards, Vision Australia's head of government and defense relations, says that acoustic warning systems will make cars safer for everyone.

"The government has listened to our recommendation and is acting in the interest of all road users," he says.

"This will not be an overnight solution, but we are pleased that significant steps are taken to address a serious safety issue for all pedestrians, not just those who are blind or visually impaired."

Some electric and hybrid cars already emit buzzing sounds synthesized as a spaceship to warn pedestrians of their presence. The formal regulations surrounding the problem could standardize the sound requirements for all manufacturers, making it easier for people to judge the speed and distance of silent cars.

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