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Ford polls Facebook on EV sounds

To come up with the best artificially generated sound for its upcoming Focus electric vehicle, Ford posted four potential sound files on Facebook and asked users to chime in.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
James Martin
Ford Focus Electric
Ford's Focus Electric will broadcast an artificial sound so the vision-impaired can hear it coming. James Martin

Focus groups get used all the time for product design, but Ford is using more of an unfocused group to pick an artificially generated sound for its upcoming, ahem, Focus electric vehicle. Ford posted four potential sounds on its Facebook page and asked its fans to pick which ones they prefer.

A law enacted last January requires cars that are too quiet, such as hybrids and electric vehicles, to have some sort of artificial noise generator. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is in the process of clarifying the quality of noise the cars should make, and when it should be in operation.

Here are the sounds Ford is proposing (YouTube video links):
Test sound A
Test sound B
Test sound C
Test sound D

Three of the samples use an electronic, spaceship sound, but Test sound B is more like a conventional engine. The sounds may not have to run all the time.

With the Leaf, Nissan created a sound that only broadcasts when the car is running at slow speeds, as the engineers concluded that at higher speeds the car generates enough noise on its own. And at higher speeds, a pedestrian probably wouldn't have time to react even with an artificial noise short of an actual siren.

If you want to put in your 2 cents about how the Focus Electric should sound, visit the Ford Facebook comments page.