DETROIT - Chevrolet, General Motors, and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) are working 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, GM announced Nov. 25.

"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."

"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," said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind.