A Prius that sounds like a Lamborghini?

April 19th, 2009
A simple solution to a growing problem

A simple solution to a growing problem

Back in January we wondered what would happen to the sound of acceleration as electric and hybrid cars slowly gain traction on the roads.

In a world of silent electric cars, would we miss the throaty rumble of a V8? Would the weed-wacker whine of a tuned Civic become a distant memory? 

Fear not, fellow cargurus, your Congress is stepping up to bring the noise back to hybrids! And it’s actually pretty cool.

The problem with silent acceleration isn’t just the omission of auditory engine feedback. It turns out driving without a sound is dangerous, especially to children and people who are blind.  

That’s the fundamental thinking behind a bill introduced by Congress this month:

To direct the Secretary of Transportation to study and establish a motor vehicle safety standard that provides for a means of alerting blind and other pedestrians of motor vehicle operation.

A new company called Enhanced Vehicle Acoustics has jumped on the opportunity and has created a device consisting of a computerized control unit and speakers placed under each wheel well that emit the sounds of a conventional gas engine. 

While the main intent of this device is to alert pedestrians that a car is approaching, the company also says that customers will have a choice as to what sounds their cars make.

Imagine your Prius accelerating to the sound of a horse clip-clopping on a cobblestone street. Or emitting the whine of a jet engine. Or roaring like a Lamborghini V12.

Hey, there’s no reason safety can’t be fun!

What sound would you want you electric or hybrid car to make while accelerating?

-tgriffith

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  1. Randy
    | #1

    Sounds like the early days of the automobile when they had to be proceeded by a horseman waving red flags.

    This is an excellent example of the complete inability of our elected representatives to exercise critical thinking. They will legislate a fairly expensive solution to a virtually non-existant problem. (I doubt fewer than 1 in 1 million electric car owners would be faced with this situation over the life of the vehicle.) On the other hand, they sit around watching while 40,000 citizens die every year and hundreds of thousands are injured in the highway carnage. It reminds me of Mel Brooks’ line in Blazing Saddles– “We’ve got to protect our phoney-baloney jobs, gentlemen!”

  2. | #2

    Though it seems like a bright idea and funny at the same time to have the sound of horse hooves and lambo sounds – by all means do that. Just forgetting one thing here – do these modern electric/hybrid vehicles not have a HORN and do the drivers lack common sense anymore ? Cant the drivers just honk if they notice someone coming in their way – or even better yet – look out for children and blind people with their white canes crossing the roads and just take care.

    The vehicle accoustics should not be taken up any more seriously than as a novelty accessory for a laugh. Not as a safety device !

    I have to second Randy on the fact that the legislation doesnt make much sense.

  3. MK4524
    | #3

    I didn’t see anything about legislating an expensive solution to a problem. I did see something about directing the Secretary of Transportation to try to come up with some sort of standard of alerting people. I’m a senior citizen who bicycles to remain fit — just following my doctor’s recommendation. It really scares me when a silent Prius passes very close to me at a speed that could cause me a lot of physical damage. Honking at me startles me and I doubt if I’m the only person who wouldn’t be startled as a car comes up from behind and startles them.

    As a driver, unless I check out everyone on the street for a cane, how would I know if a pedestrian is blind.

    So I’m not sure what kind of phoney-baloney jobs he’s talking about. Sounds like Randy hasn’t done any critical thinking himself, all I hear is a put-down with no solution. Whining is cheap.

  4. | #4

    Hey MK4524 have you ever heard of using a mirror? There’s plenty of cars that pass you too close when you ride bike. Very few are Prius. They have plenty of wind noise at higher speed and ground noise at low speed for me. Cheap is attacking Randy.

  5. | #5

    Silent acceleration is also dangerous for bicyclists.

    I’ll spare you the details but a pregnant woman I know was recently hit by a Prius that accelerated from a parked position and struck her, injuring her and complicating her pregnancy.

    Electric motors can also provide faster acceleration than fossil fuel driven motors in similar applications, particularly compared to diesel (electric has highest initial torque on initial acceleration, diesel has lowest). Great for environmental goals, and the silence is an asset (traffic noise kills too), but the danger of being *too* silent must be addressed. And frankly we need a lot fewer cars in our cities to begin with.

  6. | #6

    A road full of hybrid vehicles emitting different sounds may do more harm than good. How would a visually-impaired person know if it’s a car approaching if the vehicle sounds like a galloping horse or a meowing cat? A standard sound should be established that anyone will recognize.

  7. luther68
    | #7

    what if it rains? the speakers will get wet and soak up the water and then short out the whole electrical system to the speakers wouldnt it?

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