Pedestrian safety advocates and spokespeople for the blind have warned for years that hybrid and electric cars may pose a menace at intersections. That’s because new green cars are so quiet on the road — a boon to sufferers of noise pollution and wildlife everywhere. The fear has been that some people, including children, won’t be able to detect a car coming, although as my article on today’s front page of the New York Times (“Hybrid Cars May Include Fake Vroom for Safety“) points out, there is no information to date to suggest that even a single accident has been caused by this issue.
As the article mentions, some people have argued that we don’t need to worry about quieter cars, since the responsibility ultimately lies with the driver not to hit someone. Even so, there is enough concern that there is legislation pending that could set standards for auto sounds. And as I write this, Fisker is in the process of developing a sound system in the bumper of it’s upcoming (and pricey) plug-in hybrid car, specifically to let others on the road know it’s coming.
There is talk of customizable “car tones,” sort of like cell phone ring tones, that may soon be appearing on future models from various manufacturers. Will this improve safety or annoy everyone like your coworker with the insipid Mexican hat dance rendition on his phone?
Read the Times article.