The blind leading the blindPosted on June 27th, 2008 1 comment
The Prius of the future?
Bob Wilson, who I know from the Yahoo Prius Technical Mailing list lso of GreenHybrid.com has been involved in the upcoming bill to add “noisemakers” to hybrids (in particular the Prius) to make them less “dangerous”. I urge you to read through this and contact your local congfressional representative with a sincere and polite letter.
The upshot of this bill could result in you being required to purchase some kind of noisemaker that would your car more “visible” to the blind. If you think that’s a great idea, do nothing. If you think that sounds as stupid as I do, please take a few minutes to contact your congressional representative and tell them so.
You can read Bob’s post at GreenHybrid.com by clicking here.
Although I will certainly post updates here please check the link above for revisions and additions.
I’m making this report in parts:
Executive summary – summary and what needs to be done
Introduction to problem – how the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) started the meeting
Research – what has been done by NHTSA and other researchers
“Industry solutions” – send money for research, we will find the ‘magic flute.’
At the very end of the session, I asked, “What about the bill before Congress, HR 5734? What if it gets passed in August?” He answered, “Don’t worry …” Which means I do worry and so should you unless you are happy with the “Bell the Hybrid Act,” HR 5734.
Action on HR 5734 is probably suspended until comments for “Docket NHTSA-2008-0108″ closes August 1st. Congress is probably waiting on this one hearing to supply the backup ‘facts and data.’ But NHTSA did not have anyone from the hybrid electric owners community ‘speak’ and turned down my offer to stand in. Except during the breaks and with any subsequent submissions, this is our last chance to become “interested parties.”
It turns out that turning down a “hybrid electric owner” gives us a hook, a powerful hook, because we are the ones who must foot the bill, we are “interested parties.” Between now and the end of July we have to convince our Congressional representatives that:
NHTSA has failed to include an important “interested party”, the “hybrid electric owners” at the table although they expect us to pay for these noise makers in the future.
That science and common sense already says “Belling the Hybrids” is wrong and a technological dead end.
To that end, we need:
Over the July holiday and afterwards, let your Congressman and local newspaper editors know HR 5734, properly called the “Bell the Hybrid Act,” fails by using the same old approach, noise, that already kills 4,700 pedestrians per year. Feel free to quote from this and other sources.
NHTSA rejected having a “hybrid electric owners” at the table even though we will have to pay for whatever is legislated. They have made no due diligence to seek our opinions and seem to think our voices don’t matter … perhaps our votes do.
NHTSA needs help to bring industry onboard to write a sensible sets of requirements; provide prototypes; and empirically test systems on the NHTSA and other Federal motor pools to make sure the technology works.
Most of all, we need petitions to Congress to have “hybrid electric owners” at the table on this legislation since we will have to pay the bill, we are an “interested party” even if NHTSA has forgotten us.
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Tim Forts stood in for Nicole Nason, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and kicked off the meeting. He then turned the meeting over to Ronald “Brian” Medford, who moderated the rest of the sessions. Brian did a fine job and was fair with everyone. But there was a difference between the “invited speakers” and anyone who asked questions:
Presentation materials – the invited speakers had their charts and data so those in attendance could make critical comment. But those of us restricted to just the “open mike” had to speak without our backup materials. This is the same as telling a lawyer he can argue the case but not present his evidence to the jury except as part of the ‘transcript.’
Statement of Problem
Deborah Kent Stein, Representing the National Federation of the Blind, spoke first reading from a prepared statement. It was interesting that her statement included a criticism of electronic system and mentioned being dependent upon batteries. It was the first time I heard what sounded like real requirements, something we have needed all along, not a fixed solution. She also cited the kid who claims he was hit by a hybrid because he didn’t hear it. Finally, she claimed that if hybrids weren’t equipped with noise makers, the blind would be confined to their homes, unable to venture out.
Melanie Brunson, American Council for the Blind, spoke next and didn’t mention a rejection of technology like Deborah did. Also, she at least acknowledged the existence of canes and guide dogs but tried to minimize their impact. Melanie also relayed a story about a hybrid electric owner who startled her by rolling down his window and claiming he had ‘circled her twice.’
Mark Richert, American Foundation for the Blind, was the most professional of the three and I suspect is in practice. He spoke with precision and without adding another anecdotal story. Of the three, he came across as the most confident that the problems the blind face with mobility are solvable without being unbending in the solutions. Tim Forts thanked the panel and asked if there were any questions and I raised my hand.
After introducing myself and my small company, 625k Inc., I asked, “Why is there no one from the hybrid electric owner community on the agenda since we will have to pay for any system?” I pointed to Debbie Ascone and said I’d asked to present but been turned down and said ‘the ones who pay the bills certainly are “interested parties.”‘
Tim tried to suggest that being able to ask questions and submit to the record was enough and that is what is on the transcript. They had a court recorder transcribing the session and certainly Tim’s words and my question will be on the record.
Another questioner volunteered her story of having a hybrid electric vehicle run over her foot. This was the third anecdotal story injected into the transcript. Remember this, it becomes important later.
Pedestrian Safety and Sound Measurements and Mobility
Essie Wagner, NHTSA, presented just the 2006 safety analysis and claimed there is not enough data to draw any conclusions. She called on more data gathering … the evidence apparently isn’t good enough … just 2006 data.
Larry Rosenblum, University of California Riverside, spoke via a pre-recorded, video due to a “scheduling conflict” and presented his field studies. He claims brain studies have shown that approaching traffic activates more of the brain than other sounds and they don’t know why. He also showed that a 2004 Prius was ‘nosier’ than a 2006 Prius and some speculated on ‘a design change’ (I started smiling.)
Paul Goodes, Sound Answers Inc., pointed out the problems of detecting sound in a ‘white noise’ background. He also discussed the different spectral characteristics. Paul also emphasized the importance of controlling variables … this is a real engineer. In conclusion, he needs research money to find a sound that works (aka., “the magic flute.”)
Dona Sauerburger, Orientation and Mobility Specialist, was the most practical minded of the three. She spoke to the problems of mobility and seemed the most interested in solutions that work. The other two are off seeking “the magic flute.”
Brian made a comment about why the 2006 was quieter than the 2004 and I muttered in a loud voice, “Ask the Prius guy.” I answered, and others in unison, “It is the tires.” The 2006 still has the original, OEM tires while the 2004 by now has new replacement tires.
They then opened the floor for questions and it came around to me. So I pointed out that we had looked at the 2002-2006 data and found no difference between Prius-to-pedestrian accident rates and ordinary car-to-pedestrian rates. Then another gentleman in the back, the real statistical analyst, claimed “we do not have enough data.” I had aleady decided we will make sure our own statistical analysis by Dr. Christopher Hogan get into the record (see first version attached.) But the NHTSA analysis suffers from using just 2006 instead data from all years of Prius being on the public roads.
Without going into the minutia of statistics, it is enough to point out that Demming, the father of modern quality control, emphasized time and time again the importance of data gathering and analysis of all that is available. It is completely unacceptable to reject what data we have without doing a confidence test and sheer nonsense to reject even imprecise data when the results do not agree with forgone conclusions.
I then made a general comment about the audio analysis and said, “I notice not one chart mentioned the dopler effect even though it was in the audio samples.” There seemed some agreement. Perhaps Rosenblum’s CD will relay the message? The doppler shift as well as increases in the volume are two velocity clues yet none of the audio experts even mentioned it.
So questions continued and came back to me again.
I then cited the NHTSA report of April 13, 2008 “Backover and Non-Crash Events Special Crash Investigations” by Augustus “Chip” Chidester and spelled his name. I pointed out that “backover events were the most deadly to children” and this is important because in addition to the rear bumper, there is the vehicle exhaust pipe sending out the engine noise.
I turned to the real analyst and said, “In science and engineering we make a testable hypothesis and look for experimental data that supports or disproves that hypothesis and certainly children killed by cars by the rear bumpers and co-located exhaust pipe bears on the claimed utility of noise generators.” This is how I answered three, non-fatal, anecdotal stories, with an NHTSA report of 50 accidents and 25 fatalities from the detailed investigation by the NHTSA.
Alliance, SAE Work and Status, Potential Solutions
Unfortunately, Debra Stein and her clic were late coming back and missed the next two speakers. If she had been there and reached out to hit them with her cane, I would have asked to borrow it and finished the job!
Chris Tinto of some automotive alliance spoke and led off with the quote, “Unkown Unkowns.” But ‘send money’ and they will research it. Apparently his mortgage is paid by car companies that get some unknown value for his work. Obviously it does not come from attending NHTSA meetings and presenting his charts. I’m sure his value lies in skills not evident at the meeting.
Next Dan Seike, SAE Safety and Human Factors Standards Subcommittee and Jay Joseph, SAE Vehicle Sound for Pedestrian Subcommittee spoke. Well, it seems there has been a lot of talk and they know all the right standards committee. They need “30 months” to do their research, send money.
Later when I was driving home, the SAE presenters reminded of over educated scientists in GE who were great about dropping names but had never built a system or delivered a product in their lives. I suspect the reason they don’t is because their role in life is to evaluate the work of others and knowing how they are, realize they couldn’t stand up to the same scrutiny they ‘claim’ to apply to others. These are the type of people who write wonderful, well researched reports and analysis but soon as it is time to build product, their beautiful resumes have found a new job.
These three were the industry experts and it was obvious they are as removed from reality as it is possible to be. I would not mind the SAE people reviewing my work, I like critical review, but otherwise, they do not build products. As for Chris Tinto, … to quote Donald Rumsfeld …
Fairuz Schtecht, Fisker Automotive, spoke next about the wonderful surround sound speakers they put on cars. I briefly thought of the Sony “boom box” campaign slogan, “Disturb the Peace.” But I’d had a couple of beers at lunch with my grilled tuna salad and had to pee. On the way back, I picked up a coffee and Fairuz was just finishing.
Everett Meyer, Enhanced Vehicle Acoustics, spoke about their solution and for the life of me, I really didn’t pay much attention. He reminded me of someone trying to find the requirements so he could address them in his talk. I felt sorry for him, a little, because I know how difficult it is to engineer a solution when you don’t have a hard set of requirements. But he claims to have presented his solution to Prius owners in California and gotten a positive response. Does anyone know what he is talking about?
Finally, Les Blomberg, Noise Pollution Clearinghouse spoke and he spoke truth to power. Les did field studies and showed the real problem is “noise masking.” The ambient noise hides a large portion of today’s vehicles. This is why the blind continue to be ‘surprised’ in traffic. He called it the ‘cocktail party effect’ that as the party goes on, everyone has to speak louder and louder to be heard. This means a large number of cars are never detected by the blind. His charts and data are what I’ve been saying all along, if we replaced every car with a hybrid an any their defined ‘constant’ noise generator, there would still be 4,700 pedestrians and cyclists die each year … that is exactly the situation we have today.
Seriously, Les Blomberg has it right with empirical data that shows these noise generators won’t work.
When questions opened up, the blind advocates tried to argue some minimum amount of noise is needed … they can’t see the cars they can’t hear because of the noise masking. They are still seeking “the magic flute.”
When I got to speak, I addressed Les and the audience and pointed out that the reason the meeting made sense was we followed a protocol, that only one person spoke or transmitted at a time and we didn’t try to all talk at once. I complemented him on his work and then suggested he look at the ancestor to ethernet, Aloha Net. I pointed out that the University of Hawaii needed to communicate between the different islands and it was the establishment of ‘a protocol’ that allowed them to share and communicate.
As a wrap-up, Brian Medford asked if there were any other questions and I asked about HR 5734 and he told me, “Don’t worry about it …” When someone tells “don’t worry about it,” I know that is when we must redouble our efforts.
This is important and your action can help enormously. Please, please take a few moments to write to your congressional representative today.Call to action, Commentary, News, Other Prius groups 2010, 3g, Batteries, battery, electric, EPA, EV, hybrid, PHEV, prius, priuschat, review, technology, Toyota
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