Is my idea for an invention technically possible today?

I’m not interested in developing or gaining patent rights to this, but I am interested in its becoming a functioning part of our infrastructure, and I don’t know if the technology exists yet. I think it does, but am not sure. Here’s the thing.
The problem it would solve: Emergency vehicles move around the city, alerting others to their presence by flashing lights and using sirens and horns. Sometimes, people in their cars do not hear them because the music they are listening to is too loud. Some people even drive with earbuds in their ears, effectively blocking out all extraneous sound. Or, they are on their phones, listening intently to some conversation. This is a dangerous situation for all.
The solution: Emergency vehicles would broadcast a signal that would block radio signals in a certain radius. Radio and cellphone signals would be blocked momentarily in that area, one large enough to permit drivers to hear the warning sounds, sirens, horns, etc. It might even be accompanied by a brief warning buzzer similar to the raucous signal we get with storm warnings on tv. When the emergency vehicles clear the intersection or the area of traffic, the driver’s signals would resume.
I know that there are gadgets that can (illegally) block cell all phone calls in a small area, say, on a subway train. Could such a device be adapted for a public safety purpose? Do we have such technology?

Since the various audio devices drivers might be using operate on multiple frequencies, how would you broadcast a signal that would interdict them all? Also, what about simple audio playback devices, like a CD player? How would you silence them with a broadcast signal?

I actually think that it would be safer if the visual rather than the audio component of an emergency signal were enhanced. Not every driver’s hearing is functional at a given time, but every driver’s vision is. So why not put something like those K-Mart shoppers blue light beacons at every intersection and every block or so to visually warn drivers of an approaching emergency vehicle?

What about the homes/apartments along the way? Will their electronics be blocked?

And what about the radios in the emergency vehicles themselves?

In any case, jamming radio frequencies is illegal and the FCC would get mad.

I wish they would come up with something, I find myself somewhat immune to the sound as I hear it so often. I was honking at a poor lady to go when she had stopped at an intersection for a siren. I felt terrible about it. I do have some hearing loss but not that bad.

What if the emergency vehicle gets in a serious accident with the cloaking device enabled? No one would know how to turn it off, nor would they be able to call for assistance.

Well, I’d like to see crackdowns on overly-loud music in cars (i.e. loud enough to be perceived in the cars of others) and wearing earbuds or texting while driving should be punished with heavy fines, but as a possible alternative to the OP’s suggestion, allow emergency vehicles to transmit a signal that can be picked up the GPS receivers, i.e. the screen shows the driver’s location as well as alerts them to a fast-approaching emergency vehicle four blocks back.

I can see this being somewhat feasible, since GPS units already have receivers, but I wouldn’t expect manufacturers to be thrilled to add another one.

Jamming the signals of mobile phones, radio and personal audio devices in a chosen small area seems somewhere between highly impractical and impossible.

What could work is a scheme like this:

  • emergency vehicles inform mobile phone service providers of their status and location
  • mobile phone service providers determine which subscribers are close enough that they should be alerted
  • all such subscribers receive an alert signal: either a call or a message inserted into a call that’s in progress

Right, they receive signals from GPS satellites - but there’s no way to supplement those signals with additional local info.

Such info would need to be transmitted some other way - of which the most obvious is existing mobile phone / text systems.

No but there is a system called opticom that is very effective and does not require screwing with every wireless network within several hundred yards.

First, we’d need a study to show that this is a significant problem.
If so, we’d need to find out whether wireless communication was the major component.
Finally, we’d need to investigate the harm caused. What happens when a passing ambulance or police car causes someone to lose a life-saving 911 call? Not to mention the nuisance factor of everyone dropping phone calls.

Technically, it’s feasible to block cell phone frequencies; there are facilities that do this. They might require more power than a police car can generate.

I don’t know whether it’s technically feasible to block a wide band of FM. For a narrow band, you can transmit silence, but not wideband as far as I know. It might be possible to broadcast white noise wideband (FM), but wouldn’t that be worse than the programs you’re trying to block?

Blocking AM wideband would require broadcasting AM noise, and again, the cure would probably be worse than the disease.

That leaves satellite radio, which I couldn’t begin to address.

Oh great. Just what I want when an emergency vehicle is approaching. Every driver gets a cell phone call or text message to distract them.

Maybe just a “Emergency Vehicle approaching” at, say, 15 second intervals for the phones already in use?

The last thing an emergency vehicle needs is everybody around them suddenly becoming distracted from driving (by the text message, phone call, or whatever).

I think the technical challenges of the OP’s solution are not insignificant, and the potential undesired consequences are numerous. How’s the police radio going to work when a cop’s lights and sirens are on during a pursuit?

This is a human behavior problem, not one to be solved by technology. Driving with headphones on and/or radio too loud is a crime in most jurisdiction. The burden is on drivers to operate safely, rather than for the state to impose corrective action for dunderheads.

I can’t find a site for it just yet but such a device already exist. It doesn’t block devices but transmits a pulse on the cell phone/am-fm/citzens band frequencies that is the sound of the siren tone being used. I believe the range is something like 2000 feet.
This way if someone is chatting on a phone or has their stereo blasting they still hear the siren.

This is something I thought of over 20 years ago. When I saw that it now exists I was pissed at my self for not pursuing it. :mad:

I’ve heard that some emergency services are looking into another idea: Instead of a high-pitched siren, they’d blast an extremely LOW-pitched sound. VERY heavy on the bass. Those sounds often cause vibrations that can be easily felt. Really attention-grabbers. (Think about the cars next to you at the red light, where you can hear this awful not-music blasting. The reason it sounds so awful is because you’re only hearing the very lowest instruments, and nothing of the melody.)

I think it’s a great idea, but I’ve heard nothing about when it will be implemented.

What about deaf people. I’m pretty sure that they are allowed to drive and that jamming their radio would have no affect on them.

The lights are primary signal that emergency vehicles use to forewarn of an emergency; audio (sirens) are a secondary, backup signal. The third hint is when they physically push you out of the way.

Cellphones are the least of the problem, since most cell phone headsets involve only one ear, and conversations are not loud enough to block emergency signals.

Blocking radio transmissions are a bit more problematic, not only because of the problem of blocking emergency transmissions already mentioned but of collateral damage in blocking signals for people not in cars. I’d hate to try to listen to the radio if I’m living near a hospital in this scenario.

And how exactly would one block CDs and MP3 players hooked into a car stereo system? Loud music laws won’t do it - what about relatively loud music with the windows up?

Something along the lines of what Ford is doing would be more feasible.

An inventor came to me many years ago with a similar widget that I thought was great. I sold a lot, but it’s just not exploded like we both wish it would. It’s a brake light bulb with a transmitter, coupled (wirelessly) with a strip of red LEDs that stuck to the back of a motorcycle helmet.

You replaced your brake light bulb with this, attach the strip, and when you brake, your helmet strip lights up. Even better, when riding in a group, as bikers are wont to do, if everyone is so equipped, when the first rider hits his brake, everyone’s helmet lights up, warning riders way back that something may be ahead.

Now think of Valentine One. It’s a radar detector that points to the source of the radar with arrows. If you have a detector in your car - aftermarket or built-in - a simple radio signal from an emergency vehicle will light it up, and an arrow tells you it’s coming from your left.

The radio transmitter would be on one discrete frequency, no interference with the neighbors, and Paul Anka on the CD be damned, you’ll see the damned warning light!

In addition to rumblers, what I’d like to see on EV’s is a laser spinner instead of this LED type.
This one only works if you’re in front of the truck and there are no obstructions.

If we used [del]sharks with frickin lasers[/del] high-powered, visible beam lasers rotating, swirling, dancing, yawing, and mounted up high, you’d know the circus was coming for several hundred yards and have more than fair warning to slow down, sit up straight, and pay some fucking attention.

Obviously dusk to dawn would be when this feature shines, heh, heh, but even a rainy or cloudy day would show the wild laser show coming.

What about blinding everyone? Relax. With the way my spinners are designed, they won’t hit the same spot for long, or more than once. I’m still working out the details…