August 30, 2021

How talking trams boost accessibility for the visually impaired

Industry trends

Is it truly feasible for railway operators to strike the perfect balance between crystal-clear announcements and reduced residential noise? It’s no pipe dream anymore. Discover how flat panel speakers enable trams to announce their line numbers, destinations and stops in an optimal, targeted, intelligent way. 

What are talking trams? 

Talking trams employ an innovative acoustic announcement system in which the external skin of the vehicle itself acts as a flat-panel loudspeaker. Electromagnetic actuators are built into the side walls of such trams or buses and transmit vibrations – such as announcements – to the outermost layer of the vehicle. 

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As opposed to external speakers, the sound quality offered by electromagnetic actuators is significantly better, and can therefore be more targeted. This particularly benefits visually impaired passengers, and offers benefits to operators that prioritize noise reduction, accessibility and passenger comfort. Passenger information managers can also rely on this technology to deliver more targeted, efficient messages. 

Just a few of the technology’s exciting features: 

  • Offer regional pronunciation through individual adaptation and storage in an exception library. 

  • Easily expand the system, thanks to a powerful processor and M12 Ethernet connection (e.g. control by IBIS over Ethernet). 

  • Avoid noise pollution through intelligent, noise- and time-dependent volume reduction

Erfurter Verkehrsbetriebe uses talking trams to lower barriers for visually impaired passengers waiting at stops.  Erfurter Verkehrsbetriebe uses talking trams to lower barriers for visually impaired passengers waiting at stops*.

Why invest in talking trams? 

  • Intelligibility 

The technology’s electromagnetic actuators enable a broad, almost phase-linear reproduction over 7 octaves, from less than 100 Hz to over 10kHz in frequency. This guarantees high-quality speech reproduction. Noise-dependent volume control adapts the volume of external announcements to ambient noise conditions, further boosting intelligibility. 

  • Residential friendliness 

With this system, there is a sharp drop in sound pressure level beyond the bus or tram stop zone, thanks to the type and placement of actuators, noise-dependent volume control and intelligent night volume reduction to a maximum of 12 dB. 

  • Built to last 

Existing power reserves makes it possible to integrate other functionalities, such as on-board computers for passenger information, automatic passenger counting (APC) systems, video surveillance, etc. – reducing costs and space. 

 

*(Combino/Siemens and existing vehicles MGT6D/Duewag) Picture © Erfurter Verkehrsbetriebe

Actuators are mounted in such a way that they create an almost homogeneous sound pressure field oriented parallel to the vehicle with the minimum possible distance between the source and receiver. Actuators are mounted in such a way that they create an almost homogeneous sound pressure field oriented parallel to the vehicle with the minimum possible distance between the source and receiver.

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