Lotus Adds Fake Engine Noise To Make Hybrids Sound Like Cars

from the is-it-april-fools-yet? dept

There have been a few stories over the past few years about the fact that hybrid cars (or just plain electric vehicles) are somehow “too quiet.” The complaint is that pedestrians and bikers who are used to judging the safety of a road by vehicle noise are now somehow in danger from these quieter vehicles. Even so, reading this story and seeing the related video about how Lotus has been experimenting with adding a speaker under the hood that makes a noisy engine sound certainly feels like an April Fools joke, or possibly a bit from The Onion.

No matter how many times I watch the video, I’m still not convinced that this is serious.

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Companies: lotus

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Comments on “Lotus Adds Fake Engine Noise To Make Hybrids Sound Like Cars”

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Ron (profile) says:


My Prius does not have the “noise maker” but, if in the future, some f*cking idiot law is passed or even if the auto maker decides to incorporate such a “noise” system, I’ll cut the wires. If pedestrians or bikers are using only their ears then they are not paying attention. Likewise, however, if the auto drivers are not paying attention to the road then they are dangerous, whether or not their cars make noise. Let’s get back to some plain common sense!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Stupid

I bought a hybrid because gas is expensive. Sorry, I’m no idealist. The fact that it’s quiet is a plus to nearly everyone, I think: who *likes* the sound of engine noise? Yes, it changes the games for blind pedestrians, but there are other answers aside from taking a step backwards and making cars noisy again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Stupid

About people too stupid or reckless to be responsible for their own persons?

Nope. Never have, never will.

Less noise on the road is a bonus. The *last* thing I want to hear at night is some under-the-hood speaker going by pretending to be an engine.

Stupid and pointless doesn’t even *begin* to describe it.

Dingo says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Stupid

About people too stupid or reckless to be responsible for their own persons?
Nope. Never have, never will.

I hear ya. Every day I see idiots and other defectives that I would love to be able to run over as a way of improving the gene pool. Unfortunately it is illegal to do so. You’re right, stupid and pointless doesn’t even *begin* to describe the idea of protecting these people.

Ron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Stupid

Yes, I bought my Prius because it dumps less crap into the air, and makes better use of the fuel it does use. But, polution is not only CO2, CO, etc. It’s also noise. The noise of any vehicle is a function of a number of factors including the engine, wheels, airflow, etc. So, why should I add to the noise polution with an artifical noise source? Pedestrian safety is a function of the attentiveness of the pedestrian AND of the driver. A car that makes a sh*tpile of noise is no safer if the driver or the pedestrian is not paying attention. To make it really safe for vision impaired and deaf people and those impaired by having an iPod, phone, etc glued to their heads, maybe we should require that all vehicles be equipped with noisemakers that will cause pounding in the chests of all people within 50yds. Then, everyone will know when a car is coming, even if you’re not paying attention.

Halo Buff says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Stupid

Like I said, horns don’t seem to work either… I had a guy run right out infront of me from a corner liqur store, just after I’d turned left onto the street at a light. Barely saw him, hit the horn, screeched the tires (no ABS on an ’85)…he kept on going, right in front of me…

Maybe we need to teach kids in school what happens when you DON’T look for vehicles. I’m sure a bloody mess will get the point accross to most kids…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Stupid

You have to consider blind pedestrians, I think they can make something that makes “sound” instead of “noise” that would alert pedastrians without being overly obnoxious.

How about blind AND deaf pedestrians? You have to consider them too! At one time there were laws requiring a flagman to walk in front of a car to clear the way and ensure safe passage. That’s what we need!

Oh, and think of the children!

Beth says:

Re: Stupid

Um… what about blind people? I don’t think there’s anything lazy about going out into the world when you can’t see. I really hope that your comment is a joke… :/

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the noise any better, but until they get bionic eyes down I think it isn’t the worst idea I’ve heard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Stupid

Blind people HAVE to use only their ears. This “noise maker” you’re so fucked up about is simply a small noise generator operating at low speeds, when there’s too little tire and wind noise to alert others of your presence. You don’t have to hear any of it inside the car. It’s for the benefit of pedestrians and bicyclists, so they can not only see (if not blind) but also HEAR you approach.

John says:

Re: Stupid

What is common sense is to use ALL means possible to prevent death and injury on the roads. With traffic coming from behind ruling out sight and your pig headiness ruling out sound, I guess that only leaves the senses of smell and touch to ensure safety when pedestrians, bicyclist and cars share the same road space . The reason this type of thing needs to be regulated is because of idiots like you.

mgallagher says:

It is actually a problem for some...

Mostly blind people.

Due to some politics in the blind advocacy community, there aren’t a lot of sight-impaired acoustic assistance devices at signalized crossings. The result is that they rely on the noise made by vehicles to determine when it is safe to cross. Believe it or not, this is actually pretty effective.

Hybrids and pure electric vehicles make that approach unreliable, and thus unsafe. You can argue the cost/benefit of the Lotus approach, but there is a problem they are trying to solve.

Anonymous Coward says:

Blind people need a new system

If more efficient/greener cars are too quiet for blind people to use their current technique to know when it’s safe to cross, guess what? It’s time for them to get a new system. They are the ones with the problem, they should be the ones trying to fix it.

The answer isn’t making everything announce itself to blind people, it’s to find a way for blind people to locate potentially dangerous obstacles and hazards. Something like a lidar device to allow them to gauge distance to objects out of reach, or maybe a kind of sonar device to locate large objects would, in the end, be much more practical. One tool for each blind person is alot easier and, to me, more fair than making everyone else who isn’t blind work purposeful noise pollution into anything bug that moves.

Ed says:

I heard this complaint before. With the exception of blind people, I say “Didn’t your mother teach you to look both ways when crossing the street?” People are lazy (me too for that matter). Forget IPods, and Phones, even without them, people just do not bother to look around when walking on a street. I would swear they are thinking “It is the drivers job not to hit me. I don’t have to pay attention.” It’s the same with “Baby on Board” signs. I watch all cars equally, and all pedestrians, and bicyclists. But they have to watch for me also. It only takes one person to cause an accident, but frequently it only takes one person to avoid it also.

As for the blind, I see that white cane, and I am especially on guard to protect them, Prius or not. It is a moral obligation of the sighted to be considerate of the blind. But, if my Prius needs a noise maker constantly blaring, just in case I happen upon a blind person, then so does every bicycle out there. They are just as silent, and just as likely to cause injury. To my mind more so, since “some” bicyclists think of themselves as pedestrians, with rights to use the road, rather the vehicles, required to obey traffic laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually in every state it IS the driver’s responsibility not to hit the pedestrian (blind or otherwise). Remember, pedestrians have the right of way.

Now with that said, my motto as a driver and as a pedestrian has always been, pedestrians have the right of way, but the smart pedestrian should get the hell out of the way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hear hear.

Pedestrians have the right of way, but for one reason, and one reason only: Legal Liability.

Other than that, as you say, a smart person can easily make the connection: Car > Me.

There is a crosswalk on my way to work. At least once a week I see someone slamming on their brakes because some jackass thinks He > Car. If there is someone nearing the walk as I approach, I will stop, and everyone should, but that idiot running out there without a care in world is going to get killed one day.

…and sadly, it will be the driver’s legal liability.

The stupid need to stay indoors and concentrate on not using hair dryers in the shower.

Russ (user link) says:

I'd want mine to sound like a Ferrari Testarossa

I’d want mine to sound like a Ferrari Testarossa

Or an Indy Car.
With a button you could push to make the rev noise.
and I want it so my neighbors 3miles down the street can hear it LOL

I think if they gave you an Option of WHAT the car soundeded like it would be great…

Think about it? custom sounds?
You could make it sound like a Steam Engine car…

If this passes, I should go into business…


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'd want mine to sound like a Ferrari Testarossa

Too Late, I just applied for a patent, but someone else already has it.

“A device that alters the frequencies from another device installed in vehicles to increase audible recognition for alerting and warning pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists of said vehicle’s presence.”

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: I hate the Prius

Hey Big SUV, since you so obviously have the money to waste on the gas to have a lead foot in a gas guzzling vehicle, can I have some? I am not as rich as you obviously are. Was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing some.
Oh wait, you refuse to share the road or acknowledge other peoples existence and think you somehow have a superior right to it. Why would you share money when you lack basic respect for others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Adding sound to quiet cars is a stupid idea all together. Business wise it makes no sense, since the people driving these cars are not gearheads looking for a thrilling engine growl anyway. Most of the people driving these cars value, to some degree, luxury cars. It is “luxurious” to have a silent car.

The second reason why this bad is a simple matter of Darwinism. Do you REALLY want to help the people too deaf to hear other parts of the car besides the engine? Do you REALLY want to help people to dumb to realize they’re too deaf so that they open their eyes before wildly dancing into the street with their back to oncoming traffic?

And please after I bashed on people who are hard of hearing, nobody respond to this saying what about the blind, what about the retarded? I’ll tell you what, in the world of Darwinism- they are priority #1.

Glenn Davey says:

Re: Re:

Anonymous Coward you are manipulating Darwin’s theory. Get your grubby hands off it and stop giving it a bad name to people who don’t fully understand it.

Folks, don’t listen to this guy. Darwin merely described how species evolve through NATURAL selection, he never prescribed how we should act towards each other. This guy is talking about ARTIFICIAL selection: purposefully allowing the weak or disadvantaged in our society to fend for themselves and full prey to misfortune, to somehow cleanse the gene pool. Firstly, it doesn’t work that way! Second, this is completely contrary to the human spirit, and does not represent a majority of naturalists, humanists or atheists out there.

Chris Tromley (profile) says:

Small but genuine concern, thoroughly muddled solution

If quiet cars are a problem, apply the solution to ALL quiet cars. Under many conditions (ie: steady throttle or coasting), there are many luxury cars that are every bit as quiet as full electric cars. Tire noise is the dominant sound. I know. I drive a battery-powered car, not a hybrid, every day. Prove it to yourself by standing at an intersection and listening to the Lincolns and Mercedes.

The discussion must shift from hybrids and electrics to noise level. If there is an attempt to mandate a noisemaker, I guarantee the discussion WILL shift, and the mandate will die. There is no way the luxury car buyers will put up with artificial noise as a required extra in their rolling living rooms.

The activists need to stop pointing fingers at whatever is new and different. Just use a dB meter. It’s the only approach that makes sense.

I wonder if seeing eye dogs are trained to recognize an approaching car visually, by sound or both? Is this just a re-training issue?

DHM says:

Not just blind people

Consider – you’re walking to your car in a parking lot, pretty near the backs of a line of cars (since you don’t want to get run over by passing cars in the lot). A car one or two spaces in front of you starts their engine and starts backing out. I suspect most walkers rely on the engine noise to help detect this situation . The driver’s line of sight to you is blocked due to the adjacent cars; ditto for your line to sight to see if there is a driver in the car. Also in bright sunshine the backup lights on the car may be hard to notice – and if the car is parked a bit further in that the adjacent cars, again you may not have a line of sight on the backup lights till it is too late.

Dead silence is going to lead to low speed collisions between the car and the pedestrian. By “low speed” I mean no damage to the car. The pedestrian will not fare so well. Some sort of noise – and it can be fairly quiet – is going to be needed. Possibly just when the car backing up (and no, I DON’T mean the high-pitched beep-beep-beep we currently get from trucks that you can hear 2 miles away).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not just blind people

I tend to try watch for movement…you know kinda like if it starts moving it might hurt me if I don’t stop….if I’m behind it the driver has no excuse, except that he was only looking forward as he floored it backwards. I’m pretty sure you can cover your ears and walk through a parking lot VERY safely. you just have to pull your head out of your ass.

Glenn Davey says:

Re: Not just blind people

DHM: when I’m in a busy, noisy, underground car park, walking along near backs of cars as you described, I do not rely on noise to alert me of a reversing car. I look for two things: a person’s head in the driver side window, and the standard lights on the back of a car. The red ones indicate the thing is on, and the white ones tell me it is reversing. I also sometimes look for the car moving backwards just a tad, as most of us do when we’re intending to full reverse out of a parking space. I imagine deaf people would do these same things all the time.

Engine noise is something that came hand-in-hand with internal combustion engines – then we just got used to it. Now we think it is absolutely necessary? Nah-uh. We can work without it. Did we forget that less noise is a GOOD thing.

Imagine bustling cities becoming many times quieter and less polluted over the next few decades. I, for one, look forward to that! We should embrace positive changes like this. Not shortsightedly balk at them because they seem to present problems.

DHM says:

Re: Re: Not just blind people

(Hit the return key too soon on the last reply!)

Agree with most with what you say. Not as big a problem in a garage as the lights are much more obvious. In an outside parking lot on a sunny day, much less so – some lights are virtually undetectable (especially from the side, which is what we’re talking about) under these conditions. Also, in a tight parking situation, you may not have line of sight to the driver. Finally, the driver needs to back up a few feet to get line of sight on passing cars. He’s hit you by then.

I’m not endorsing loudspeakers continually simulating roaring engines – the problem of blind people crossing the street can probably be solved in a more clever way as has been discussed. I’m delighted when I see but don’t hear a hybrid driving by. But there may be justification for some fairly quiet noise (e.g. sufficient to be barely audible 5 feet away).

Before we had internal combustion, the prevailing equine transportation technology did indeed emit a fairly quiet, but noticeable, noise when in motion.

Interesting point about deaf people – I’d be curious about their coping strategies in parking lots.

Halo Buff says:

What about Horns?

My ’85 cutlass has 2 speakers for its horn. It is fairly loud, though oddly enough, no one can hear it. Pedestrians, dim-wits in other vehicles, all completely deaf to it. If people can’t pay attention to such an abnoxiously loud warning used since the earliest cars, what makes others think this concept will work?

some old guy says:

Convenience to the driver

Since I am training for a triathlon, I ride my bike extensively, but I go too fast for sidewalks to be safe (to me and to pedestrians), so I am stuck riding in the streets, with the cars.

Obviously, I take up space in the road. When I know a car is behind me, I do my best to hug the very edge of the road, and when there is not a car behind me, I move to a relatively safer 3-4ft from the edge.

When cars are too quiet, I do not notice them, and do not give them the room they need to pass me in-lane, so they will have to wait for the other lane to be clear to pass me out-of-lane.

I’m not saying this cause I advocate adding speakers to cars for the obscure convenience of getting bikes to move out of the way, just to point out that the issue with bikes isn’t merely cause bikers aren’t paying attention, it’s because you’re removing their capacity to pay attention when the vehicle is too quiet, thus the onus shifts to the driver to pay this attention tax. There’s just no way for us to know you are there!

This goes for non-hybrids too!

lfisher says:

Re: Convenience to the driver

“There’s just no way for [cyclists] to know [cars are behind them]!”

This seems like good motivation for mandating mirrors be put on all road-legal bicycles, does it not ? I’m sure they can come up with some aerodynamic mirror designs for competition cyclists that like to train on public roadways.

I would prefer a less personally-intrusive solution for dealing with blind pedestrians, such as the audio signals at intersections and whatnot that was mentioned earlier. I’m rather selfish, so I’d rather something like that be put there than on *my* vehicle.

I would also think that car-equipped audio signals would be the much more expensive solution in the long-run, but I’m not really sure about that one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Convenience to the driver

two words…helmet mirrors, they are a life saver. I don’t say this to sound like an ass, just figured you may want to look into it. as far as biking in the street you are technically allowed if not required to be there. you are not supposed to ride on the opposing side as instructed in the 80’s and early 90’s but right there with traffic. So the best thing I’ve found for this is a mirror that clips onto your helmet that gives you an eye backwards.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Convenience to the driver

When cars are too quiet, I do not notice them, and do not give them the room they need to pass me in-lane, so they will have to wait for the other lane to be clear to pass me out-of-lane.

Then you’re a bad biker. They make bicycle mirrors for road use. Get some and learn how to use them. You really don’t have much excuse.

some old-ish guy says:

Re: Convenience to the driver

@some old guy:

“When cars are too quiet, I do not notice them, and do not give them the room they need to pass me in-lane, so they will have to wait for the other lane to be clear to pass me out-of-lane.”

Whether you hear them or not, this is the correct and legal method for cars to deal with cyclists in all 50 states. As a cyclist, you have a right to the road. If it’s not safe to pass a cyclist within one lane, a car is required to use the next lane to the left to pass the cyclist.

In addition to a mirror, spend some time learning about the vehicle code in your state so you understand a cyclists rights (and responsibilities!) on the road.

The life you save may be your own.

Are You one? says:

Dumb posters

I can’t believe some of the poster’s comments on this. Some people think it’s ALL about themselves and don’t realize it’s for the safety of the blind pedestrians. They don’t take into account of situations when not beling able to hear the engine noise causes great danger even when you are watching out. Some of these posters think this law is rubbish just because they think it’s to protect dumb pedestrians not watching out and who it’s really targeted for.
The solution may not be to put noise in electric cars but can’t we work with the blind pedestrians to make a solution instead of just waiving them off as if it’s their fault for not being able to hear? Someone mentioned an RF chip and canes that would make noise when it is in close proximity? I think that might be a nice idea. We should have more ideas like this.
Backup alerts might be a good idea also but not the irritating backup noise we currently have. I know this great country has full of ideas and we should pursue them instead of using this “Noise” law they are trying to push. Let’s work together for a solution instead of saying “This LAw sucks!”.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Dumb posters

“Some people think it’s ALL about themselves and don’t realize it’s for the safety of the blind pedestrians. “

No, actually.

It’s not about that at all. It’s about the needs of a few being placed above the needs of the many.

I’m fine with protecting the blind. I have *no* problem with that. But when that turns into “put some lame-ass speaker in your car to annoy *everyone*”, it becomes a problem.

It costs millions of drivers to do this to protect a huge minority. It’s a waste. That money could be *much* better spent in outfitting the blind with detection gear…

…dont’cha think?

Matt says:


If we want ultimate safety, let’s all go back to walking… every technology has a downside, and the most good for the most people rule might apply here.

I like the idea of some kind of RFID or acoustic detector in the walking stick to alert the person. PLUS, the guide dog is trained NOT to let the blind person into the street with a vehicle approaching… the dog can hear the road noise of the vehicle hundreds of feet away and see it coming, too. Not all blind persons have dogs, but that is ONE alternative, rather than millions of cars with hundreds of dollars in equipment just for one small subset of the population.
We could buy a guide dog for every person in America for that amount of money…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

No, being louder on an already loud motorcycle means you’re an asshole. Most motorcyclists are already antisocial psychopaths — locking front brakes and spinning the rear wheel at high speed, popping wheelies at 80 down residential streets, and worst of all, running full throttle (redlining it) at all times just so they can force themselves into everyone else’s lives. Bikes are already noisy enough — we need them quieter, not noisier. Headlights are mandated to be on at all times so other drivers can SEE you. We don’t need to HEAR you from miles away. I’m tired of being awakened at 2 a.m. because some drunken biker on his precious Harley wants everyone to know he’s there. Shoot them all!

mojo (user link) says:

Hey, are we forgetting the #1 way to insure the safety of pedestrians, blind or otherwise? PEOPLE DRIVING THE CARS SHOULD OPEN THEIR EYES WHILE DRIVING AND PAY ATTENTION.

Whether your car makes noise or not makes no difference – YOU should be insuring that you’re not slamming into people while driving. What are you going to do, complain that the person crossing the street you hit couldn’t dive out of your way because your car didn’t make enough noise?

You know what happens when a motorist hits a pedestrian? We throw them in jail. The judge is not going to care if you were driving a truck or a magic carpet.

The only consideration that should be made with quiet cars is reminding the drivers to PAY MORE ATTENTION.

magnumpc says:

Wasn't this already done in the 90's?

I thought someone had already some something similar to this albeit just for the occupants of the car. The system combined an active noise reduction system (like noise reducing headphones but using our car’s speakers) with a simulated engine sound (also pushed thru the cars stereo) that was tied engine revs.

IIRC, there was a Corolla which sounded like a Ferrari to the occupants…

Eric says:

A bit of sound is essential to the safety of blind people – particularly since studies show that the majority of drivers ignore the white canes of those who are blind. My mother is blind and this is a serious issue.

I have little sympathy for any motorist striking (or having a “near miss”) a blind person with or without a white cane as they whiz by in their quiet hybrid or electric car.

This problem has also impacted the ability of guide dogs to recognize safe crossings.

This is a recognized and known serious problem of electric vehicles and researchers are working on identifying good solutions.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: Personal Responsibility v2.0

Somehow it seems that most people responding are concerned, if that’s the word, about the cost to them of the addition of a little sound device that makes a small amount of noise so that blind people can hear it coming.

What they seem to forget is that modern vehicles are loaded with electronics anyway and adding something to make a unobtrusive sound is really a no brainer and likely would cost next to nothing. Particularly as it became more widespread in the industry.

No one who has proposed such a thing is looking for a noise maker pumping out 110db from a stack of Marshall amps loaded on the roof!

Selfishness run rampant.



Peter Smith says:

silent vehicles

As a blind pedestrian in Boston, I can assure you that the issue of a silent vehicle is quite serious. The fact that you don’t consider it merely accentuates the point. I don’t expect vehicles to be loud, but everyone needs to know where they are. Boston drivers are dangerous enough without adding stealth to their arsenal!

Damien says:

“What they seem to forget is that modern vehicles are loaded with electronics anyway and adding something to make a unobtrusive sound is really a no brainer and likely would cost next to nothing. Particularly as it became more widespread in the industry.”

This isn’t about cost. For many of us, myself included, the fact that the “engine” in an electric vehicle doesn’t sound like a contained explosion is a plus. Noise pollution is. not. a. good. thing.

When even the the birds are adapting to living with noise pollution you know something needs to be done about it, and this is part of the solution. Does it negatively affect blind people? Possibly, but only if they don’t adapt to the way the world works.

And in any case, it’s not like electric cars are truly silent. Airflow, tire friction, motor brush friction… these all make noise.

Dustin says:

“Whether you hear them or not, this is the correct and legal method for cars to deal with cyclists in all 50 states. As a cyclist, you have a right to the road. If it’s not safe to pass a cyclist within one lane, a car is required to use the next lane to the left to pass the cyclist.

In addition to a mirror, spend some time learning about the vehicle code in your state so you understand a cyclists rights (and responsibilities!) on the road.”

Sounds good, as long as you don’t complain when said cyclist receives a ticket when they realize they can’t maintain the road’s minimum required speed for any sustained time and, as a result, create traffic jams.

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