Cooley On Cars
Car Tech 101: Bring the noiseThe flood of electric cars makes noise -- or lack thereof -- a problem for pedestrians who may not see or hear you.
The problem is actually a byproduct of a lot of high-tech innovation in power plants. As cars increasingly are hybrid or plug-in hybrid or pure electric, they don't even meet those RO engine cues. I told you there's a car behind you. Sorry. And that means a whole lot more scenarios where them and you can come into contact in a bad way. 'Til the U.S. passed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, it requires that quiet electrified cars intentionally make some kind of noise up to 18 miles per hour. Above that speed, tire noise and other mechanical sounds tend to have a sufficient audio signature to warn pedestrians. Now, what kind of sound is a question of much debate. Listen to some of the sounds the industry has toyed with and tell me you aren't in the transporter on the enterprise. Carmakers wanna be in charge of that decision, so the noise is one they feel as pleasing to their car owners, not annoying. -The sound is a major plus for the brand of the vehicle. So as electric vehicles could potentially sound like anything, manufacturers happen to think quite casually about what their electric vehicle should sound like. Others argue that all electrified cars should make the same noise so pedestrians can learn a consistent sound and know that's a car. -Specially designed directive speakers emit sound in the driving direction and nowhere else. -Where all this is likely to end up is probably somewhere in the middle, enough leeway for carmakers to sound what they wanna sound but within limits, so parking lots will end up sounding like a cellphone shop full of ring tones. How important is this? Our partners at State Farm point to a Federal estimate that there could be reduction of around 2800 injury accidents between pedestrians, cyclists, and this new quiet breed of cars over the lifetime of each model year.