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New “whoosh” sound on reversing snow vehicles continues testing

December 3, 2018
Feature Stories

The City is resuming testing on 62 snow-clearing vehicles in the downtown core – replacing the standard, loud beep on reversing vehicles with a whoosh-type sound. The goal of testing this innovative technology is to enhance public safety for Ottawa residents and visitors while reducing noise disruption – particularly during overnight snow-clearing operations.     

The alarm’s whoosh sound is directional, meaning it’s only audible to those in the hazard area – behind the vehicle. It’s much less audible to others nearby. In addition, the volume of the alarm adjusts automatically according to background noise levels in the area being cleared. The sound also dissipates quicker than standard beeping alarms.

Many institutions around globe, including the University of Ottawa, have conducted research on the system and have found a number of enhanced safety benefits:

  • It’s easier for people to locate the sound.
  • The sound is better at penetrating hearing protection devices.
  • Those with hearing impairment are better able to hear the sound. 

Take a listen to how the broadband alarm (whoosh-whoosh) compares to old standard tonal alarm (beep-beep).

Many cities across the globe have adopted the new alarm system. It’s being used on buses in London, England and on construction vehicles in New York City. Whistler, BC has been using the new alarm since before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and have never reported an injury despite the heavy pedestrian traffic

The City of Ottawa will continue testing the system in the downtown core (Wards 12-17) and studying ongoing research before deciding whether to expand use of the alarms.

Public feedback also plays an important role. An online survey was available after last winter’s trial.  Follow the City’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as ottawa.ca, for the latest updates.

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