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Advanced Pedestrian Control System

OTT case 08-007 | U.S. Patent 8,384,562

Hybrids and other quiet cars are posing a threat to blind people at intersection crossings simply because the visually impaired person has difficulty hearing these cars approaching. In response to this concern, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has formed a Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety/Quiet Cars. One solution suggested by this NRB committee is to have vehicles emit a non-offensive sound. 

The Advanced Pedestrian Control System (APCS) system developed by University Researchers puts the solution into the hands of the blind person. With the APCS system, the person carries an Advanced Pedestrian Assistant (APA) unit or cell phone containing the APA software. The APA initializes the intersection crossing station containing the Advanced Pedestrian Controller (APC), which in turn communicates with the traffic controller. The system then guides the impaired person across the street when the time is appropriate. 

If the APCS-assisted individual begins to walk outside the “green” safe zone during the intersection crossing and into a “yellow” warning zone, the APA signals the person to return to the safe “green” pathway. If the person walks beyond the “yellow” zone and into the “red” zone, the traffic controller is given a signal that can be used to alert drivers of the danger using the traffic signal lights.

As the price of gas has increased over the years, so have sales of hybrid vehicles at 5,000 per month in 2004 to over 20,000 per month in 2008. There are now an estimated 1 million hybrid cars on the road today. With gas prices expected to remain high for the foreseeable future, more and more drivers are expected to turn to hybrid and electric cars. There would be a sizeable and growing market to fit quiet cars with a noise generator for blind individuals to hear. What may be a significant market barrier for such a noise generator may be resistance by the automotive industry and consumers on adding cost to vehicle production. In addition, adding noise to a vehicle would go against an industry trend over the years of making cars quieter.

The APCS system instead targets both the intersection and the individual requiring assistance. The NFB estimates that there are currently 1.3 million blind individuals in the U.S. For the APC unit alone, the potential market size would be in the tens of millions.