Nissan To Add Futuristic Sound Effects To Its Electric Car To Keep It From Hitting Unaware Pedestrians

from the so-that's-why-they-sound-that-way dept

Ever wonder why futuristic vehicles in science fiction movies have loud whirring/buzzing noises? Perhaps it’s because of people worried about pedestrians getting hit by silent vehicles. You may recall that there has been some effort underway to push the makers of hybrid or electric vehicles to add engine noises to their cars, because the electric engines are “too quiet” and unsuspecting pedestrians who fail to look both ways are getting hit. Or so we’re told. I’ve yet to see much actual evidence of the rash of pedestrians-hit-by-Priuses, but the story has gained some legs. In fact, some politicians are even pushing for government mandates to require such cars to be noisier. In an effort to live up to any such requirements, while still making its all electric vehicle still feel futuristic, apparently Nissan is looking to add those Blade Runner-style vehicle noises to the upcoming Nissan Leaf. There’s no functional reason for it, other than that they want to make the car noisier, and fake engine noises didn’t seem as fun (or, one would imagine, marketable).

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Comments on “Nissan To Add Futuristic Sound Effects To Its Electric Car To Keep It From Hitting Unaware Pedestrians”

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95 Comments
Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

deaf law makers

I’ve seen plenty of cars that had engines so quiet I heard the tires on the pavement before I heard the engine. I also hear my grandfathers Prius just fine.

And if you’re in a situation where you won’t hear the tires on the road, you probably won’t hear the fake engine noise anyways. Best to look before you step out onto a street.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: deaf law makers

That doesn’t take into account the silent electric engines that are already out there, the quieter internal combustion engines that are out there, or the adaptations that the blind develop to compensate.

It’s one thing for Nissan to do this by themselves (it’s their car, they can make it as unappealing as they choose), it would be another to create a law forcing this down everyone’s throats. It would require a minimum decibel level and would have to take into account the current cars that fall under that level or the people who modify their cars to not emit that noise. And imagine the fun people will have trying to adjust their noise to find the brown note or mosquito noise.

Jim O (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: deaf law makers

My neighbors are blind and I find their mobility skills to be fascinating. They do prefer to cross streets at lighted intersections, but even at lighted intersections they mainly use car sounds to determine what direction traffic is flowing.

If they come to a signal (or intersection) with light or no traffic they will wait and listen to determine which direction traffic is flowing to decide when to cross. If they hear nothing for a while they have no choice but to cross the street with no idea whether a car is coming. They do their best to stay out of cars’ paths.

I’m not saying that I think artificial car noises are a good idea, but I can understand how the thought of a majority of cars being noiseless is a scary thought for the blind.

iNtrigued (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 deaf law makers

I think the sound of the tires at a certain speed would make enough noise to still allow them to make that determination. Although like someone pointed out, at a low enough speed the noise would be significantly less. Maybe their could be a switch, similar to how you turn your lights or turn signal on, that could enable a sound while going through intersections.

Its important to note that we won’t be seeing a significant enough drop in noise producing cars to worry about this anytime soon, but it is worth looking into for the future. The gov’t should definitely stay out of it though, I mean, when was the last time the gov’t made something better? It starts off well enough, but it always ends with, “Well we didn’t know it was going to do THAT.”

Michael Talpas (profile) says:

Re: Re: deaf law makers

If they are making these laws for the consideration of blind people, doesn’t it seem strange to you that blind people are ‘walking across streets without a guide?’

At stop lights, they have been putting in those loud beeps that let the blind person know that it is safe to go across. Beyond that, blind people should not be walking across streets without a guide who will look both ways for them. Like, a seeing eye dog.

The idea of mandating car noises for silent cars so that blind people walking across the street don’t get hit is similar to the idea of putting braille on drive through atms so that blind people can use them while driving.

John Duncan Yoyo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 deaf law makers

>>Braille is on drive-thru ATMs because the same
>>models of ATMs are used in non-drive-thru locations as >>well.

>I’ve seen braille stickers added onto
>drive-through ATMs that did not originally have it.

Don’t any of you have a back seat? The braille is for a backseat passenger to be driven to the cash machine.

Headbhang (profile) says:

Re: deaf law makers

If you read the actual article, you’ll see that there is a sound rationale behind the system, which switches off automatically after the car reaches 12 mph, when the sound of the tires is deemed loud enough to serve as warning. While I regard this sound to be pretty useful, I’m of the opinion that engine noise is more of an annoyance than it is worth at high speeds.

However, I dread the idea of an advent customizable “car-tones” for people to broadcast their “individuality” to unsuspecting bystanders. I’d rather have a lorry roaring at my side than some moron pumping some Jay-Z at me because he finds it cool. People need to keep their fucking music inside their cars, not outside.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Proprietary Noises

“Sounds like a new business model. For only $10 you can download a new EngineTone(TM) for your electric car.”

Oh yeah, that’s wonderful. It’s not bad enough that I have to listen to a blaring version of “Sexy Back” everytime the mindless teenage girl in front of me on the El gets a text message from some pimply reject trying to strip her of her sacred flower, NOW I have to listen to all manner of cars spew noises at me as they go hurtling past on Clark Street on my way to work?

How long before those propietary noises get volume blasted and start violating noise ordinances?

Oooooh, THEN we can have celebrities doing voiceovers for the cars and getting paid for it. That’d be even BETTER!

Instead of a turn signal, you could just have a loop of Samuel L. Jackson screaming, “Turnin’ left, motha fucka!” until you complete the turn….

another mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Proprietary Noises

It’s piezo, but I think a standard hobby 8 Ohm project speaker would work better and probably cost less. You’ll need a memory chip to hold the recording and a processor chip to control the playback, trigger playback off the indicator’s blink. Mount that with an amp (if the speaker kit doesn’t have its own) and a projection cone near the headlights so you’ve got power and ground nearby.
So a PIC, an EEPROM, a speaker, a little project board to solder it all on to, plus all the resistors, capacitors, and bits to make it an engineered solution. Maybe $20, 25 shipped.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Proprietary Noises

“I just want you to know, the idea of a car screaming on an endless loop, “Turnin’ left, motha fucka!” is now my sole reason for liking the idea of silent cars being given noises.”

Yeah, I kind of have to admit that a soon as I wrote that and hit submit, I went back and read it over and suddenly decided that I like the idea after all. See? My ideas are so persuasive that they even change my own mind.

I think I’d fill my car’s noise hard drive up with quote drops from Sam and Max, Monkey Island, and DAy of the Tentacle.

“This don’t look like the Lincoln Tunnel, Sam!”

Michael Long (profile) says:

Re: Prius is the silent killer..

“…. but our instincts are still to use our ears.”

Our instincts used to be tuned towards listening for an approaching horse’s hoves as we alighted from the carriage, but we seem to have adapted.

Or does anyone think that today’s gasoline-powered vehicles should have been required to make clippity-clop noises???

Spacemanbob (profile) says:

Drivers Need to be more aware

Since when has there been a rash of more blind people being hit by electric cars…. oh wait…. The Driver has to pass a drivers test to look out for pedestrians crossing streets. There is even a section on what to do when you see a person with a walking stick…SLOW DOWN…and then see what they are going to do.

Enough of the madness. There are enough driver laws about being aware of your surroundings. Driving is not a right as some think it is. It is a Privilege and if you don’t follow the rules (Speeding..etc.) that will be taken away.

Anonymous Coward says:

They should just come up with a Nightrider version where the car uses radar and then yells “Hey, get out of the way.”

I can understand the concern though. Go to London and on the streets they have painted on the street in front of the crosswalk “Look Left” or something like that for dumb Americans. Thankfully, The Brits know that Americans will walk right out in front of them looking the other way. Me, I was looking at the painted sign.

John Duncan Yoyo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

>Huh? So Brits have a stupid sign up and it is America’s >fault? It must be tough to carry such a chip on your >shoulder.

No, the Brits have the sign so that they don’t have to treat American’s run over by Brits in the National health system. Keeping expenses down with preventative signage. Besides slightly flattened visitors are bad for tourism.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Since people in Europe drive on the opposite side of the road than the US, wouldn’t it be better to have a sign saying “Look Right”? You know, since when you step off the sidewalk the traffic is coming at you from the right. Maybe that’s why the Americans are looking the wrong way when they start to cross the street, they’re just following your signs.

Michael Talpas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Chronno S. Trigger: “Since people in Europe drive on the opposite side of the road than the US, wouldn’t it be better to have a sign saying “Look Right”? You know, since when you step off the sidewalk the traffic is coming at you from the right. Maybe that’s why the Americans are looking the wrong way when they start to cross the street, they’re just following your signs.”

That’s a good point! They’re trying to kill us, those sneaky europeans!

Matthew Krum (profile) says:

Re: Knight Rider

If it sounded like KITT, it would more likely say, “Michael, I’m detecting a careless pedestrian 10 metres to the North West.” or something similar. But, in London, wouldn’t the ‘sign’ read “Look Right?” Here in The States I always look left as that’s where the traffic is coming from. Plus, a Brit would be equally ‘dumb’ if they were here and stood on the side of the road all day looking for said ‘painted sign.’
PS. I want my Nissan to sound like a skateboard so security guards will harrass me. ๐Ÿ™‚

DARWIN says:

“because the electric engines are “too quiet” and unsuspecting pedestrians who fail to look both ways are getting hit.”

well excuse me, but if you are too stupid to look both ways (something taught to 1st graders) then maybe you deserve to be runover. its called natural selection.

the need for the government to pass laws to regulate stupidity makes me weep.

Ron (profile) says:

F*cking Stupid Idea

Pedesrians should look both ways and PAY F*CKING ATTENTION. Drivers should watch for hazards like people stepping off curbs without looking (this part includes blind pedestrians since they can’t look) which means the drivers shoud PAY F*CKING ATTENTION.
People get struck by vehicles that make noise as well. Since we adjust to our environment, as the noise level increases, we just tune out the noise so noisier vehicles will not fix the problem; only make for more noise.
By the way, all vehicles make noise. My Prius may not have a huge revving engine but the tires make noise as it moves.

Sneeje (profile) says:

Well, it doesn't have to be black or white...

Well, as a parent of small children on a street that has lots of children and moderate traffic, I can see a benefit in this. All of the parents on the street are on their children about looking both ways, but young children just don’t have the discipline yet to do it consistently (it only takes forgetting once).

In addition, the teenagers on the street don’t yet have the discipline to make others’ safety their highest priority.

So while teaching and monitoring these groups is the most important approach to safety, having an extra cue (noise) is helpful.

There is a driver of a Prius that lives at one end of the street that I can say has snuck up on me at least once.

The best safety systems rely on no single failure point and instead include many cues that help the people involved avoid disaster.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Well, it doesn't have to be black or white...

As a parent of small children, my reaction is: if you cannot trust your children to look both ways, then you cannot trust them to cross the street unsupervised*. If you cannot trust them to not cross the street when they’ve been told not to, then you cannot trust them to be outside unsupervised. Kids earn privileges by earning parents’ trust, right?

Don’t force cars to be noisier, just know your children and set appropriate limits to ensure their safety.

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Re: Well, it doesn't have to be black or white...

I’m not advocating outlawing anything. I’m just saying that noise would be a fantastic additional safety measure.

I guess you didn’t really read my post where I said that teaching them this is important. We and the other parents *never* leave the children unsupervised. But anyone that has kids knows that even constant supervision is not 100% effective. It is ignorant and disingenuous to say otherwise.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Well, it doesn't have to be black or white...

True, you did not advocate mandating it, and just said there is a benefit. Possibly, but the Nissan’s system turns off at 12mph apparently. If your street is like mine (a residential street that doesn’t lead anywhere else), all the traffic except people pulling in and out of driveways is well above 12 anyway, so no effect.

Nothing is 100% effective, so I’m not sure what your point is there.

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Well, it doesn't have to be black or white...

My point is that safety should never be based on one line of defense, and the best systems have multiple layers because while each one is never 100% effective, total failure requires the failure of every layer and its likelihood goes down.

I.e., silence + pedestrian vigilance + driver vigilance

Chris Tromley says:

New = reason for fear

When the first automobiles hit the road there were laws requiring a man to walk in front of it carrying a lantern or flag or some such nonsense. This is so idiotic as to make me ashamed of my species.

The only time you can hear the engine of many cars is when they are accelerating. Under cruise or coast all you can hear is the tires. Stand on any street corner and pay attention to prove it to yourself.

If there was any sanity in government, any sound laws would require a minimum sound level for *all* cars. You want some serious bitching? Wait until buyers of Lexus, BMW, etc. have to have “vroom-vroom” noises on their cars.

CiderWoman (profile) says:

A Necessity For Some

Sure, the addition of a futuristic sound to Nissan’s vehicles might seem frivolous – until you consider that there are hundreds of thousands of pedestrians who cannot see. It’s not that we simply “fail to look both ways” – we can’t. So hearing the approach of a vehicle as we’re traveling independently on foot is a necessity for our own safety. Even for those who travel with the assistance of a service dog, it’s crucial that the person be aware of traffic in order to make decisions about when to step out into the street: the service dog is a sort of backup, there to lead the individual around obstacles, or refuse to move forward into the street if it sees a vehicle in the path. Speaking for those of us traveling with nothing more than our white canes and our wits at the ready, I applaud Nissan for a decision that’s a necessity for the safety of many, blind or sighted. And who says futuristic sounds aren’t fun? A change of scenery for the ears s always interesting!

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: A Necessity For Some

Well, if a blind person can’t hear the sounds of the tires above 12mph, they’re screwed because the sound turns off above 12. And if someone can’t stop, or can’t pay attention at below 12mph, they need their license revoked permanently.

This isn’t completely frivolous, they’re doing this to enhance their public image and as a gimmick. Why else would they pick Blade Runner sounds?

Chris Tromley says:

Re: A Necessity For Some

I’m one of those people who’s in favor of handicapped ramps in buildings and intersections, disabled-friendly bathrooms, etc. – even though the cost is high and there are relatively few handicapped people. It’s the right thing to do and the cost per able-bodied person is almost nil.

When all cars are silent I think it makes perfect sense to require all vehicles to make some reasonable minimum level of noise, even if the only people it helps is blind people.

It is utterly boneheaded to direct such legislation at electric vehicles only. There are millions of cars on the road *today* that are too quiet for blind pedestrians. Take the electric vehicle distinction out of the requirement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A Necessity For Some

Sure, the addition of a futuristic sound to Nissan’s vehicles might seem frivolous – until you consider that there are hundreds of thousands of pedestrians who cannot see.

Consider yourself lucky and quit thinking just of yourself: there are those that can neither see NOR hear. That’s why we need a federal law limiting all vehicles to a maximum speed of 5 MPH and requiring big fluffy pillows for bumpers so that the blind AND deaf won’t be so severely injured when they step out in front of moving vehicles. It’s just the right thing to do.

Mike says:

Fake Car Noises

With all of the noise we have to put up with in today’s modern life,(not to mention falsly increasing the exhaust noise on a vehicle, so when it is travelling down the outside lane on a 4 lane motorway, the booming noise in your car, in the nearside lane, nearly blows your eardrums out), having vehicles that are very quiet is a blessing.

Keep the new cars silent and get people to look after themselves, by looking before crossing etc.

We should also be looking at noise cancellation on the motoways to further get rid of the tyre noise of vehicles traveling along them.

The silent cars are a good step towards a better quieter life for all occupy this earth.

Sergio says:

No Need

OK, electric vehicles are not 100% silent, as long as they are moving, they are making noise. Also, most cars have day running lights, so they stand out better, so as long as we’re all doing what our parents told us to do when we were 3 and look both ways before stepping out into the street, we’ll all be fine. Bikes make as much noise as an electric car (maybe less) and they even travel on the sidewalk with no lights and people don’t get hit by them.

As for blind people, we all know they have superhero level hearing and smell, so they’ll be fine. The ones with dogs will also be fine since dogs rely on both sight and sound.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Need evidence for silent vehicles hitting pedestrians?

That sounds like incompetence on the part of the Amsterdam pedestrians. If that’s a properly labeled bicycle lane then they’re walking where they shouldn’t be. Think about it, in the US if you’re walking down the middle of the road (or one of the properly labeled bike lanes) and a cop pulls up behind you, what would he say?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Need evidence for silent vehicles hitting pedestrians?

“Think about it, in the US if you’re walking down the middle of the road (or one of the properly labeled bike lanes) and a cop pulls up behind you, what would he say?”

In Chicago? Depends what color you are. It varies from a simple “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” to a double-tap to the chest with a little crack sprinkled on you for good measure….

Cliff De Witt says:

Too Quiet Cars

As a commuting cyclist I do think that this would be an OK idea not necessarliy a good one.

Too many riders are hit and killed by drivers too drunk or too distracted to pay attnetion to the others on the road a noise maker on electric cars would be a big help. I do hear the tire noise but in trafic there can be a lot of tire noise and where exactly is it coming from? While I am looking to locate all the cars around me will one of them decide to pull orver and take the space I’m using?

Robert says:

1 vote for some kind of noise/sound

My wife and I were in Florence a few years ago when they had and expo of different types of electric vehicles (cars, mopeds, etc). They had a number of these vehicles on hand and it was possible to rent or otherwise test drive these vehicles around the area. Well, anyone who’s been to Europe knows that most vehicles (especially mopeds) are quite noisy and you get into the habit of listening for their approach from behind. That’s how you know they’re there. While wandering around town that day we had several near misses when, not hearing any significant sound, we decided to cross the street only to hear a moped/car horn warn us out of the way just in time. The only real sound these vehicles made was from the pop, pop, pop, of the tires over the cobblestone roads. It’s not so much an excuse as it is just to point out that that’s the way our minds are conditioned to expect things and until that paradigm changes it’s an accident waiting to happen.

dbrusiee (profile) says:

the problem is in the parking lots

Folks, I have witnessed a number of near accidents in parking lots. Most drivers park so that they have to back up to get out of their spot thus creating a high risk situation. And of course a silent car makes matters even worse. And people will walk right behind a car that is about to back out ignoring the back up lights etc. I don’t see much of a problem when crossing a street especially at a light. Of course people walking or driving while on the cell phone is just an accident waiting to happen. Cheers

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Useless & stupid vehicle company
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All their vehicles are shit, rubbish & garbage
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