In this world homo sapiens lose their eyesight but have the ability to sense the surrounding with biosonar similar to whale and dolphin, I wonder if we could have discover electricity but suppose the setting is in the late 18th to mid 19th century A.D, how would transportation looks like? I assume we still need to cover distances across difficult terrain and large bodies of water so I hope to get some useful tips in designing the kinds of transportation in such a world. Also A.I research is still at its infancy so I am looking for commercial types of vehicles.

  • $\begingroup$ 18th century didn't have airplanes, and cars appeared just at its end. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jan 6, 2020 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch: I was thinking if we aren't blinded by power... we should already have flown people by then anyway I just edited the question. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jan 6, 2020 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is a fascinating question...which is wrong. What you should ask instead is "what modes of transportation and vehicles would humans with echolocation and no sight produce" as it's not necessary they'll have "cars" or "planes". Certainly not as we know them and perhaps not even what's going to be considered a car or a plane. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Jan 6, 2020 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ Just so you know, people do have echolocation, it's just less good than what some animals have. That doesn't change your question, but you don't look like a fool writing that people don't have it in a book or so $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jan 6, 2020 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35: I think those people belong to special cases, they adapt to the environment so it is not an innate ability but rather an amazing talent or skill. So I am hesitated to edit my question as per your comment but I like to be convinced otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jan 6, 2020 at 9:57

2 Answers 2


If you have to use echolocation, you cannot afford solid surfaces blocking your line of sight.

This means forget about glass windows if you want to perceive the outside of your vehicle.

First cars and airplanes had their driver/pilot exposed to the outer environment, thus there would be no issue for those heroic gentlemen. But as soon as they want some shelter from the outside you are in troubles, and I think you can also forget about pressurized cabins in airplanes.

Additional complication would come from the noise of the engine, which was pretty loud in the early models of both cars and airplanes. It is possible that more effort would be put in researching proper acoustic insulation and dampening (nobody IRL likes to drive with light shining in their eyes, right?), resulting in quieter engines.

And I am also pretty confident that talking to the driver/pilot would be highly frowned upon for very similar reasons.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "This means forget about glass windows if you want to perceive the outside of your vehicle." this actually got me thinking...what if we don't forget about the windows? We don't need to use glass - it can be a solid opaque block. Perhaps you can lead sound out of the cabin e.g., using a microphone (or something lower tech - a funnel, two cups and a string, etc.) and then project it out from the vehicle. If you can then receive it back, you can get sensory information for the outside while you're protected inside. Useful for harsh weather or if you can achieve high speeds. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Jan 6, 2020 at 9:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The roar of the engines that we can hear would be far below the frequency used for echo location so shouldn't be a problem. Even noise at the same frequency would not pose a problem as echlocators tend to be very sophisticated in separating out their own signals from noise (thousands of bats can fly in dark caves without hitting each other or the walls). $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Jan 6, 2020 at 9:32

The early fliers would not use any windows in their planes so they would have an unrestricted echo location “view”. These planes would probably not fly very high as they would want to be able to echo locate the ground and landscape.

Before long instruments would be developed that gave them an artificial horizon, altimeter, air speed indicator and compass. At this point it would be much safer to travel higher on instruments. On returning to low altitude they might slow down and “open the window” so they could echo locate for landing.

Eventually artificial long range echo location would be developed like radar/sonar allowing even greater control. There might be an intermediate step where high energy ultra sound was beamed at the ground to allow these creatures to see beyond their normal range.

With modern instruments there would be no problem in having a pressurised atmosphere even at altitude, however there might well remain the last step of pressure equalisation followed by opening the window for landing.

  • $\begingroup$ What exactly do you expect to get echoes from once airborne? $\endgroup$ Jan 6, 2020 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Carl Witthoft The ground and surface obstructions like trees, hills and buildings when flying very low. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Jan 6, 2020 at 19:12

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