Experiments by psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum of the University of California at Riverside found that subjects listening to recordings of combustion-engine vehicles approaching at 5 mph—with traffic noise mixed in to simulate a parking lot—could detect its familiar rumble at a distance of 28 feet. They couldn't detect a Toyota Prius going that speed until it was just seven feet away. The work was funded by the National Federation of the Blind, but Rosenblum says quiet cars also pose a risk to small children, the elderly, cyclists and runners.
Pending approval in Congress, the Pedestrian Safety Act would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to study the minimum decibel level required to alert the blind and other pedestrians to motor vehicles, including high-end gas-powered cars. If the act is passed, the Secretary of Transportation must set a new standard within 90 days of the study's completion, to go into effect two years later.
Not to Vroom
Traffic noise is excessive in many urban areas, and some studies suggest that long-term exposure to the din may make people more susceptible to health problems, including hearing impairment and heart attack. Cars are less dangerous at low speeds, and hybrids are silent only below 20 mph—above that, tire and air friction create enough noise to make even all-electric cars audible. The U.S. Department of Transportation has not found any evidence that hybrid cars are associated with increased accidents involving pedestrians.
A better way to protect pedestrians, some hybrid drivers suggest, is to require collision-avoidance systems or front-end airbags on all cars, although these are more complex and expensive than noisemakers. If hybrids must emit sounds, some argue, consumers should be allowed to customize them like cellphone ringtones. The company Better Place, which is developing networks for recharging electric vehicles, has already copyrighted the term "drivetones."
So what do you think?
I don't know about anyone else, but I was taught to look both ways when crossing the street, not to listen both ways... Whoever thinks quieter cars are more dangerous should be on medication for paranoia.
Agreed. At some point, people have to be held responsible for SOME common sense.
Yes, people with VISION should look both ways before crossing the street. But what about people with vision problems. like i don't know Blindness. where they can't conveniently look both ways before crossing and they have to listen for approaching cars
We as pedestrians need to take some responsibility towards our own safety on the road. For years we have been trying to battle noise pollution, and now when we finally do have an option we are trying to make the environment noisy...
We just need to look where we walk.. also I assume that by 2020 walk ways and traffic management for pedestrians would also have progressed.
This is great technology that creates much lesser air pollution and virtually no noise pollution.... why spoil that can be saved?
That’s one of the most ridiculous things ive ever heard! One of the great things about electric anything is that’s its quieter. So leave it to the government to actually ruin a good thing by adding replicated sound. I had already envisioned a quieter neighborhood, and interstate system in the future, I guess that’s not going to happen now.
The blind strictly follow thier plotted out courses which always use cross walks and some of the new ones have audible signals to let them know when its safe to cross. This isn’t really about the blind this is about lazy jaywalkers that don’t look both ways.
Can I just say that the LAST thing we need is ringtones for our cars.....normal cell phones are annoying enough. The last thing I want to hear is "ice ice baby" as a car passes by. Many intersection where I live (middle of nowhere NC) have yellow lights that blink when a car is approaching an intersection. Just make that a noise at a crosswalk and problem solved, the blind know when to cross.
If they really want to let it make noise, just ask the motor manufacturer
to tune/ or manufacture the motor to sound a certain way.
this should not be difficult at all, i see this all the time (or i should say hear) in different electronic applications.
Whats so impressive is that the sound a electric motor make sounds good, Turbine like but in an electric way , in my opinion the sound is just as impressive as the motor itself
Electrics has come of age... !
First off I hope to god they don’t come out with drivetones. I don’t even like hearing other peoples ringtones go off let alone every car on the road playing their own drivetone. I don’t want to hear that crap. Second, let’s say that all cars are converted to electric, which produce no sound other than road noise. With all the birds dying from wind turbines what the hell are we going to listen too? I for one vote for peace and quite and give the blind an optical implant. As for the others who run out into traffic… That’s only survival of the fittest….
i think that the car should only be noiseless if the sidewalks and stuff are advanced.
I think the best solution is for the car to broadcast a signal (like bluetooth). Then blind people could use a small receiver that could produce an audible warning. If it was in stereo, it could even be used to approximate the direction of the approaching car. It could also simulate a Doppler shift so the speed of the automobile could be estimated.
In this way, only people that need to hear them could...
Small price to pay for peace quiet and saftey.
I think 3DTOPO has a great solution. That way you only hear it if you need to hear it.
It cannot be overestimated how much we 'see' with all 5 senses. Why should it have to take the senseless (no pun intended) accidnetal killing or injury of a silent vehicle because they did not hear nor see the car until it was too late.
Yes, having a vehicle that makes little to no noise is a wonderful thing. However, let's express some caution here. Safety is supposed to be 1st. Comfort is a distant 2nd. Where is the science behind those wanting quiet on their roads and in their neighborhoods at all costs, including life itself?
If there is sound science to back up people recognizing silent or near silent cars then so be it, but let's not rush to judgment before there is some sound science to this!!!
In fact, any car has a honk. If you want to warn a pedestrian, bicyclist, other car or animal, just honk him gently. No reason to make noise all the time.
Japanese driving instructions translated in to english:
When a passenger of the foot moves in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet melodiously to him at first. If he still obstacles your passage, tootle him with vigor.
If electric cars are required to make noise I'm moving to a cabin in the woods. Maybe a green cabin in the woods...
I was standing in the middle of a friend's floor shop one day recently, and turned around to see the front fender of a Tesla Roadster EV creeping up on me, just inches from my leg. Shocking!!! (no pun intended)... behind the wheel was Chris Paine, writer/director of the documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Just as I turned around to see him, Chris and his passenger began laughing, knowing that he would never have been able to do so if he had been driving any ordinary car.
I have converted my BMW 318i to an EV with a motor and batteries (it's on You Tube as "BMW EV burns rubber"), and it won't really be finished until we deal with this silence issue. 3DTOPO brought up a solution that has been around for a while now... but to expand on the idea, such a system should be interactive, and not just for the blind and hearing-impaired: it should be available to children, the elderly, bicyclists or anyone that simply wants to be safer on the streets. We might even require this to be an option on all new vehicles of any kind, since it would bring its price down considerably, and reduce accidents especially at night and in bad weather; cars equipped with them should be eligible for an insurance discount.
Many children already carry cell phones, and the latest inexpensive cellular app can be a transceiver that alerts drivers to anyone with such devices, but only if the car is moving in the direction of those pedestrians or bicyclists... the car should automatically "look" to the rear when the car is backing up. Such transceivers could even be built into kids' sneakers the way they already have blinking LEDs that increase children's visibility at night. They can be designed with motion sensors so that they turn off when the shoes stop moving for a given period of time, extending battery life.
Excessive noise has been linked to increased risk of heart attack, hearing loss and other problems. Making quiet cars noisy is heavy-handed and backward, and should not be considered.
A similar issue is that with ordinary cars as you sit with the engine idling, you can hear it and the car creeps forward slightly, reminding you that you are behind the wheel of a potentially lethal weapon. An EV makes no noise, so when you turn it on, there is nothing to remind you that the car may suddenly lurch forward if you accidentally depress the accelerator pedal, possibly causing an accident. A solution could be a menu of gentle sounds or lights that are driver- selectable... maybe something such as a burbling brook, rustling leaves, ocean waves, or a rainstorm... or some techno "Star Wars" kind of sound... or, the car could creep forward slightly the same way cars do today. It need not be very loud or obnoxious at all to be effective. The driver could also opt to have the transmission shift to neutral should it sit longer than a given number of seconds. In any case, it should be driver- optioned and selectable or it will simply be seen as an intrusion.
These safety issues remind me of the very early days of horseless carriages, when many people were terrified and distrustful of any form of automation. In some states, hilarious laws were enacted requiring, for instance, that drivers were required to stop at all intersections, get out, and wave a lantern in both directions before proceeding.
Since we have a lot of people who have vision problems this makes sense. The sound does not need to be loud and can be directed forward only.
Mind you I would be incredibly tempted to hack any sound generator and replace it with the "Ride of the Valkyries"
Animals may also depend upon audible warnings from vehicles. I would prefer a single standard noise similar to a regular engine's that comes on when speed is low and ambient noise is high. OTOH, I'd love to have the back-up alarm on construction equipment turned off when motor noise is enough. They can be terrible for nearby residents.
While I do see how the blind would be at a disadvantage with electric cars vs. gas cars, I don't think a perpetual noisemaker would be the solution. I know in many cities, there are sound devices at intersections that let the blind know which direction has the right of way, so that would be a good solution to the problem. Yes, I know that leaves intersections with only stop signs and residential streets, but I would think those would be quiet enough that the aforementioned tire friction and air noise would be loud enough for someone to hear.
Try driving in India. Everyone beeps their horn constantly. I suspect thta if their engines were quieter, they'd just beep more.
oh cmon... 15% of the appeal of sports cars is their sound... i know for one i wouldn't buy a sports car if it is quiet... that is definitely an oxymoron
i think that it could be good and also bad. if engines were quiet it would drastically reduce the amount of noise but if there was noise then yes it would warn people but it would be just like now. why not build something that would alert you if a car was coming??? this would help everyone.
It may be useful in the case of blind people, elderly people & cyclists. But, i don't think any car comes without horn which may be enough to alert pedestrians. And hence no need of any sound making device.
Absolutely ridiculous ... let's make the cars noisier because people can't hear them ... and while we're at it we had better include bicycle messengers and similar vehicles in any legislation we're considering.
The root cause of the problem is not that the vehicles are too quiet, it's that some people cannot sense them in the same way that they have been able to until now.
How about giving the people in question (who are a very small percentage of the folks crossing streets, and will soon (if not already) be greatly outnumbered by the number of quiet vehicles on those same streets) the technology to detect on-coming vehicles? That seems like a much more straightforward solution to the problem.
Short answer: Why?
Long answer: Pedestrians and other road-faring vehicles will adjust to the noiseless <21 Mph EVs just like our great-grandparents did from slow/low-noise horse & buggies to fast/loud ICEs.
The only other option I think we should do is maybe install an external noise cancellation system on the EV that cues the pedestrian's ear that something is different over there. Because even if an EV is quiet, it still emits some amount of noise.
And from what I've read, source antiphasing doesn't work as well as receiver antiphasing which works in our favor; alerts the potential victim of the incoming car and keeps the environment quiet, especially for the driver and surrounding buildings.
By now everyone should have experienced some kind of noise cancelation system. When the antiphasing noise is received in your ear, it creates that strange airplane sound from which you know is unnatural. Placing this on an EV would defintely alert you of something coming your way wihout destroying peace and quiet.
It would just need to be tuned to ensure that the noise that is cancelled is just from the motor and not from any outside source.
No new technology, just plain 'ol noise cancellation to alert those pesky Jaywalkers. =]
Though there is the joy of a silent car, one must consider the visually impaired, they do not have the obvious option of looking for an oncoming vehicle. I think that an electric car can be quieter than an internal combustion car but still make a sound that would notify people of its presence audibly. This sound can also be easily isolated from the passenger compartment since we already have anti-noise technology. It would probably be easier since we would already know what the sound would be.
O o o, do I get to download and choose my "engine-tone"?
I think that the point being made by so many here, and obviously missed by those that advocate making electric cars more noisy, is that they are NOT the problem, merely a symptom.
Many have commented about the need to give some warning to those that can't see or can't see well. The fact is, we DO have mechanisms for those individuals. The are called stop signs and alerting signals. A blind person or visually impared person would NOT be caught dead crossing a street in the middle of the block or at an intersection that does not have a stop sign for crossing in the direction they are traveling. Most if not all (at least those that want to live) will plan their routes according to use the stop signs and alerting signals in their area, specifically to avoid crossing a street where there is no control over the traffic coming and going.
The problem isn't the low level of noise put out by the electric cars, it's the noise pollution of other vehicles and environs that really need to be reduced. Then people would be able to hear the electric cars.
If you are thinking about putting ANY effort into this, make the effort to help reduce the noise pollution, not increase it by making electric vehicles more noisy.
No! Definitely not. I have my wonderful "Prius" and as somebody else indicted we have eyes and ears! We have been taught to use these senses when riding any machinery and equally important we also have been to taught to watch, look, and listen regardless of our circumstances. Those walking should also be on alert. The beauty of the hybrid or electric is that it is quiet. We need more quiet in our world.
Maybe natural selection will take care of unwary pedestrians. Nature to the rescue! =)