Fake Car Noises Being Added To Many New Cars… May Be Required Soon

from the vroom-vroom dept

Last year, we pointed out that some car companies were experimenting with adding fake engine noises to their cars, after complaints were heard that hybrid and electric vehicles were “too quiet” and sneaking up on people. Apparently, those original experiments are turning into a groundswell. After some politicians decided to put forth legislation requiring such sounds, apparently lots of car companies are adding sounds to their cars, such as Nissan’s recently announced plan to include futuristic Blade Runner-style sounds. Reading through that NY Times article, it seems like the car companies are less concerned about the safety issues, but are excited about the idea of opening up a new market for selling “car tones” — like ringtones, but for your car noise. Can’t we just set it to vibrate? In the meantime, there appears to be no evidence that these hybrid and electric “menaces” are causing any more accidents in their “silent, but deadly” current state.

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Comments on “Fake Car Noises Being Added To Many New Cars… May Be Required Soon”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“I was thinking something more like the Shadow vessels from Babylon 5.”

As I’ve said before, instead of blinking turn signals I’m going to have a loop of Samuel L. Jackson screaming, “Turnin’ left, motha fucka!”

And every time I put the gear into park, I’ll here Sam from Sam ‘N Max say, “This don’t look like the Lincoln Tunnel, Sam”…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

As I’ve said before, instead of blinking turn signals I’m going to have a loop of Samuel L. Jackson screaming, “Turnin’ left, motha fucka!”

Good luck with that one. Most likely you’ll have to buy your cartones from the manufacturer or some source authorized by them and only “approved” sounds will be allowed.

AC's long lost brother says:

Re: Pedestrian safety enhancement act

“Why don’t we enhance the pedestrians ability to look both ways before they cross the street and eliminate the need for more useless legislation?”

Let’s just say that you’re vision-impaired (Blind, for the Non-PC people). How the HELL are you supposed to LOOK both ways?

Ryan says:

Re: Re: Pedestrian safety enhancement act

I dunno, I guess you just throw caution to the wind and start dancing across the highway. Shouldn’t it maybe be on blind people to devise safe methods to cross the street and otherwise go about their lives instead of forcing everyone else to put blinking lights and blare music from their car? What if a legally blind person wants to be a commercial pilot? Do we mandate that all tall buildings in the country are lit up like a Christmas tree and make the runways idiot-proof…or do we not let blind people fly planes?

John Duncan Yoyo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Pedestrian safety enhancement act

Part of the method for a blind person to cross a street is to listen for traffic.

As we all know there are lots of idiots driving out there so it isn’t unreasonable for a little noise to be added to a car. Some people in the country add Deer whistles to scare of deer.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Pedestrian safety enhancement act

The trend towards quieter cars causes more accidents for blind pedestrians?

Next Up:

“Trend towards smaller cars causes more accidents for deaf pedestrians. Cars now required to flash neon lights from all available surfaces.”

Loud horns and neon lights. Our cars are going to look like something out of Close Encounters . . .

ethorad says:

Re: Re: Re: Pedestrian safety enhancement act

Why do you think the Close Encounters ship was like that? Apparently the antigrav motors were too quiet.

Instead of the horses head thing, this reminds me of having a man with a red flag walk in front of the car to warn pedestrians. Pointlessly removing one of the advantages of a new technology. Next people will be legislating to stop people taking advantage of the free distribution available on the internet! Oh, wait …

There are plenty of solutions for allowing blind people to cross the road – starting with traffic lights with beeps (after all, isn’t jaywalking already a crime in some states?) and moving on to guide dogs, plus whatever the future can come up with – personal radar?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Pedestrian safety enhancement act

Let’s just say that you’re vision-impaired (Blind, for the Non-PC people). How the HELL are you supposed to LOOK both ways?

What about deaf people? Let’s say that you’re both vision AND hearing challenged. How the HELL are you supposed to SEE OR HEAR traffic? You insensitive clod! That’s why all vehicles should be limited to 5MPH and have big fluffy bumpers! It’s the only morally right thing to do!

Julien C says:

Re: Re: Pedestrian safety enhancement act

I am slowly but certainly becoming blind. One thing I hope is that my remaining hearing sense will not be screwed up by enhanced car noises. This is a fucking stupid project.

Same goes for Mr Blind vs Apple argument about how the iPhone’s touchscreen is a bad thing and how the mobile industry should revert back to hard keyboards that do that clic-clac-clic sound that annoys the other 99.999% healthy people.

So instead of putting a 5000W speaker in each car that will please those old bastards who can live without having a car that does ‘Vrrooooom!’, please put your money into more intelligent things like augmenting reality for the blind (ultrasounds can be used to simulate touch, for instance).

Les Walker (profile) says:

Re: Pedestrian safety enhancement act

I live in a supposedly “safe” retirement community, University Village in Thousand Oaks, CA. There is a 10m/h speed limit. We have carports which require us to cross the street with no crosswalks. The employees drive totally silent golf carts. On Fri. the 13 of November, I got out of my car, LOOKED BOTH DIRECTIONS, there were no moving vehicles coming for 300 feet in either direction. I proceeded to cross the street while looking at my mail. I was about 2/3 of the way across when I saw a golf cart C
coming at me at about 25 m/h (My estimate). I was hit on my right thigh, thrown onto the pavement, suffered a compound fracture of my left elbow,numerous bruises and lacerations and it ripprd a piece of bone out of my elbow for which I just had bone graft surgery. Five days in the hospital, 3 weeks in skilled nursing and have to wear a heavy metal brace 24 h/d. I never would have been hit if I had heard the golf cart coming.
Administration and residents (About half drive golf carts) don’t want any change: No crosswalks, no speed bumps, no manually operated stop signs, and no sound from their carts.

If you get hit like I was, you will change your mind.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I think this is a bad idea since quieter cars are a NICE thing to have, and if your stupid enough to just walk out in the middle of traffic, you deserve what you get :D”

…said brian to those stupid blind people for whom the legislature was written.

Jimmy Nosight turned in his general direction, looking vaguely lost, and sputtered, “B-but, please sir, how will I be able to know where the cars are when I can’t see them coming?”

Brian leaned back and barked out an evil laugh before rearing back and bringing his fist down upon Jimmy Nosight’s crown. Jimmy crumpled into a heap at Brian’s feet, leaving him free to stomp his head until grey matter oozed from the poor blind man’s lifeless carcass.

“Problem solved, blindy,” Brian spat. He returned to his car and peeled away, the theme song to Hawaii Five-Oh blaring from his speakers.

The End.

ChadBroChill (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But you just said all those stupid blind people deserve what they get. They are the ones who step out into “traffic”, but do so safely because they can hear the cars coming. The sound is also what keeps them in line in a crosswalk, and tells them when a car is stopped and only idling. The blind area actually quite ingenious at using car sounds to gather information about their environment. So don’t assume everyone who can’t see a car coming is an idiot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Ah, but Electric cars are not silent, I’m not blind and I have heard a Tesla roaster go by, it’s actually quite easy to hear it coming. It;s got a high pitched electric motor sound instead of a low grumble. Low frequencies are fairly non directional (it’s why you only have one sub-woofer) but high frequencies are, and the high pitch electric motor noises actually make it easier to pinpoint whee the car is.

Fred McTaker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The problem isn’t car companies wanting to make money. The problem is how they do it: on the backs of tax-payer citizens, some who depend on public transportation. This “car must make noise” bill would end up acting like a subsidy for “car tones” sales. Public funded roads are a subsidy for the car industry in general, just like public funded train tracks are a direct subsidy to a given train industry. Emissions standards also shouldn’t be considered a limit — they are actually a free “pollute this much or less” pass to the car industry, under which they are immune from paying for a lot of the health and environmental problems they cause.

Anti-tax people really need to open up their mind about what constitutes a tax or subsidy. Any time government sets up anything that favors one industry over another (corn over broccoli, cars over trains), or rests power in a privately held Trust or Monopoly (insurance, autos, telcos, cable, etc.), you are being taxed by those corporations via a combination of direct subsidies and monopoly rents. Those taxes probably amount to more than the ones the IRS deals in.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Horse Heads

Anybody remember when they were selling those fake horse heads for your Model-T?

The idea was horses were getting spooked by seeing a “horseless carriage” motoring along; to putting the head on there was supposed to help sooth the poor animal’s nerves…

I don’t know why; but this reminds me ever so strongly of that…

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Horse Heads

“The idea was horses were getting spooked by seeing a “horseless carriage” motoring along; to putting the head on there was supposed to help sooth the poor animal’s nerves…”

Ha ha, hold on, let me get this straiht:

There were people…in THIS country…that believed that it would help to sooth a horse…if the horses saw a metalic automobile with the lifeless decapitated horse head soddered (sp?) to the front of it?

Huh, either humans or horses are truly fucking stupid…

(Psst! It ain’t the horses!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Screw 'em!

I can see the vote now…

“The future is mine!!! Screw all pedestrians! Screw the blind! It’s their fault for being bling! Screw the children for not hearing a car that makes no sound! I should have the right in this country to drive a silent car! I’m entitled!!! I’m entitled!!! ME!!! ME!!! ME!!! PISS ON EVERYONE ELSE!!! In fact, all businesses that have blind people should have the right to hang sh*t from the ceilings!!! YEAH!!! ENTITLEMENT!!! ENTITLEMENT!!!”

Yeah, that’s just the way it’s going in this country. Just one more topic to make things worse… And in case you didn’t get it, the above quote is sarcasm laid on pretty thick.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Screw 'em!

“Yeah, that’s just the way it’s going in this country. Just one more topic to make things worse… And in case you didn’t get it, the above quote is sarcasm laid on pretty thick.”

Well, since one can only comprehend up to their own level of intelligence, and you felt it necessary to point out the blatantly obvious sarcasm now biting my face, the silent cars must be made for you.

With the expected level of intelligence falling in this country, it’s no wonder everything is pandering to idiots. In the long run, this deteriorates the actual level of intelligence and damages our future. Won’t someone truly think of the children.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Screw 'em!

Actually, no. I happen to have a vision problem that makes crossing the street in daylight very dangerous. Hearing noises is the only way most people can cross streets, and that’s in the crosswalk. Coupled with the number of morons who feel its their right and entitlement to speed through intersections and run red lights while simultaneously b*tching about red light cameras and their right to do what they want, you’ll have car enthusiasts who want to have a silent car without any sort of regard to another person’s safety.

That sarcastic remark only mirrors the idiots who vote against any sort of noise in a car, be it a futuristic sound or a fake engine noise. People complain about the requirement for seatbelts. People complain about the requirements for helmets on motorcycles. People complain about how high or how low their car can be off the ground. Hell, I’ve even heard someone yell out of their window at the sheer audacity of having a 15 mph school zone outside of a freaking school.

Noise of some kind *should* be put on cars and any attempt at removing it should be met with the harshest penalties possible.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Screw 'em!

Another disabled person taking their disability way to seriously. It’s like that guy in the wheel chair who sued an entire city for not being handicap accessible (even though it was).

It sucks that you’re blind and cant help it. It sucks that you’re powerless to help yourself. How do you live day to day with things like the silent internal combustion engines we already have or the current electric cars or bikes or runners? My god, it must be so horrible living with a disability.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Screw 'em!

Well, I think you could’ve been less harsh about it, but I am very proud of the fact that I do my best to treat people with disabilities with as little deference as possible. Some things make sense (and I believe non-customizable minimal sounds for the blind are among them), but in most cases they’re people like anyone else and they can survive.

In fact, I’m usually amazed at how resilient people can be, particularly those that have to overcome something uncommon. Dogs are the same way. Ever seen a three legged dog run out a frisbee? I have…and it’s awesome.

So you take the necessary steps to make sure people are reasonably safe, but beyond that? So you’re blind…big fucking deal. I’ve got a fat head and big ears, thanks to my Irish father. That guy down the hall has ED. My boss is freakishly tall. People are different and have to put up with different shit. It isn’t all equal to each other and people’s situations vary…too bad, live your life anyway.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Screw 'em!

yes, it was harsh, but no I’m not sorry for it. People get far to sensitive about who they are.

I’ve never seen a three legged dog go after a Frisbee, but I have seen a two legged dog go after a ball.

Human echolocation was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. The blind kid who mountain bikes blew my mind. And he was completely blind, not limited. I’m still trying to figure out how that other blind kid plays Mortal Kombat.

Nastybutler77 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Screw 'em!


But seriously Chronno, that’s a bit harsh. Unless you have, or have taken care of someone with, a disability you probably don’t have a clue how difficult it can be.

Oh, and that first paragraph was sarcasm…

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Screw 'em!

“But seriously Chronno, that’s a bit harsh. Unless you have, or have taken care of someone with, a disability you probably don’t have a clue how difficult it can be.”

Why yes, yes I am and yes I have. I do know how difficult it can be (probably why I feel so strongly about it), but I don’t ask the world to change for me.

Jameson Ahern (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Screw 'em!

As has been stated by others, there IS some kind of noise already emmited by cars: tire noise.

And why should there be a law requiring seat belts or helmets? As long as a person is over 18 and of sound mind, then by all means it should be their choice to protect themselves or not. The government doesn’t need to tell me I have to wear a helmet when I go for a bike ride. It’s rediculous not to mention an invasion of civil liberties. Its the sort of problem that solves itself in the long run anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Screw 'em!

What about the safety concerns that a constant noise can cause. If there is a pedestrian yelling and screaming I should be able to hear them, but this noise might block them out. Or a siren or someone honking. This noise can be a double edge sword as well. If every car made noise it that noise would accumulate when all cars are next to each other making it more difficult for drivers to pay attention to other things. For instance, they have laws regarding how loud you can bump your music in a car (the state you live in may also matter), both to avoid disturbing the peace and because you should be tentative to the noises around you when driving for safety reasons. How do those same principles apply here?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Screw 'em!

..and your current car is totally quiet?

I don’t think anyone is suggesting that cars all have police grade sirens on them, only that they make enough noise to be noticed. A clicking sound would likely be more than enough, a mechanical thrum, so something similar.

Once again, Mike boots a story into the weeds by failing basic Google search skills:


Strike another chord for citizen journalists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Screw 'em!

No, Mike brings up some interesting points with some interesting perspectives and discussions regardless of whether or not you agree with him. You may not agree with him but that doesn’t mean “citizen journalists” are bad. They provide perspectives worth considering, even if we disagree with them, that “non – citizen journalists” don’t provide, as you even implied with your suggestion that these perspectives won’t come from non – citizen journalists (providing more evidence that we need what you call citizen journalists).

scarr (profile) says:

Re: Over-estimating Silence

I was debating raising the deaf argument (pun not intended). If it’s callous to not bend society to the segment of the population that’s blind, isn’t it the same discourtesy to leave out the subsegment who are deaf? Or is one disability “ok”, but two means you’re now out-of-luck?

Perhaps cars should emit a series of explosions, producing light, sound, heat and smells … just to be safe.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Over-estimating Silence

“Perhaps cars should emit a series of explosions, producing light, sound, heat and smells … just to be safe.”

Well, yeah, either that or we could all just be reasonable and realize that the ability to perceive the exact location of a rapidly moving object through sound alone is far more difficult than through eyesight alone. All disabilities are not equal.

Or we could just have exploding cars that emit heat and smell like Indian curry and despair, but I think my way is better…

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Over-estimating Silence

OR maybe somebody will realize there’s a market for car-detectors for blind people? Some pager-size device which signals the proximity of rapidly moving nearby objects with a sound/vibration/mild-electrical-tingle…

(My only question there–how does one advertise to the blind? Oh wait, radio!)

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Over-estimating Silence

“Perhaps cars should emit a series of explosions, producing light, sound, heat and smells … just to be safe.”

And vibrations so people can feel the car coming if they can’t feel the heat or smell the smoke.

Only one sense left. Anyone got anything good for taste?

What about pedal bikes? They’re quiet and I (as out of shape as I am) got my mountain bike to 40mph. Racing bikes can get much higher. At those speeds, you’re still dead. Why aren’t they expected to make a sound?

neil says:

Re: Over-estimating Silence

i think your right i worked in a warehouse with electric forklifts and you could hear them comming from far away.

i think the problem right now is that given more then one vehicle on the road if one of them is electric you cant hear it because the rest of them drown out its noise but once we get to only electrc vehicles we will hear them all.

however if we legislate noise devices for these cars then the noise will need to be as loud as the curent noise level. this will lead us to the day when we all have electric cars but still the same level of noise polution

Anonymous Coward says:

Pretty sure the drivers are still the ones responsible for avoiding pedestrians. You don’t need any fancy sounds (even–get this–even for blind people!) if drivers actually pay attention to what’s going on around them and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Presumably, legislators know this. Sounds (eh? eh?) to me like it’s really about arbitrarily legislating a market for a service into existence. How many people would get car tones if they didn’t have to?

Peter says:

Utterly nonsensical laws brought to you by an out of touch class that likely never walks near moving cars and likely has a chauffeur.

I walk to work. Across fast secondary, and slow quiet subdivision roads and through even slower workplace parking lots.

Engines on a modern family sedan contribute little to hearing a car coming toward you. That is mainly wind tire noise. You hear the engine sound as it is driving AWAY from you.

In most parking lot setting you will hardly hear anything as engines are idling and ambient noise will cover that. I have had numerous people walk in front of my car in parking lot settings. The onus is on the driver to pay attention and not run into people.

In short completely useless idea, trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, by making more unwanted nuisance noise.

LostSailor (profile) says:

No Evidence...That Mike Bothered to Look For

Can’t we just set it to vibrate? In the meantime, there appears to be no evidence that these hybrid and electric “menaces” are causing any more accidents in their “silent, but deadly” current state.

Gee, Mike, I would have thought you’d be applauding this: you get both safety and an innovative new business plan from car makers.

But “no evidence” that hybrid-electric cars cause any more accidents? Two seconds on that Google thing might have helped.

Hybrids are twice as likely to crash into pedestrians and cyclists

Here’s the U.S. Department of Transportation study

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: No Evidence...That Mike Bothered to Look For

From your first link:

“Federal researchers who examined 8,387 hybrid and 559,703 internal combustion engine vehicle crashes in 12 states, including Florida, discovered the incidents commonly occurred at low speeds, when the sound difference between a hybrid and traditional car engine is the greatest. But accident rates with pedestrians and bicyclists were almost the same for both engine styles when the autos were going straight.

None of the accidents studied were fatal.”

This is clearly an area that legislators should get involved in immediately. Much time, effort, and taxpayer money must be spent now if we are to start saving these zero lives as soon as possible.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: No Evidence...That Mike Bothered to Look For

But “no evidence” that hybrid-electric cars cause any more accidents? Two seconds on that Google thing might have helped.

Too bad you didn’t actually read those articles after you found them. A couple of good quotes:
“But accident rates with pedestrians and bicyclists were almost the same for both engine styles when the autos were going straight.” (Sun-Sentinal article)
“None of the accidents studied were fatal.” (Sun-Sentinal article)
“There was no statistically significant difference in incident rate of pedestrian crashes involving HEVs when compared to ICE vehicles when both type of vehicles were going straight.” (US Dept of Transportation study)

Also, after looking at the actual data in the US Dept of Transportation study, the difference in accident rates in low-speed and turning collisions (the only category where there was any statistically significant difference) was actually much less than the “double” figure in the headline of the Sun-sentinal article.

There may also be an issue with the sample size in the study, which appears to be quite small. (Only 75 Accidents involving Hybrids were used in the analysis).

Plus, the last time I checked, when a driver is involved with an accident with a Pedestrian or Bicyclist it is assumed that the driver is at fault unless proven otherwise. This means that it is the drivers responsibility not to run into people. I also remember from drivers training class being instructed to be extra careful whenever you see a blind pedestrian (identified by a walking cane or seeing eye dog). There are also lots of silent and near silent vehicles on the roads: ever been to Florida or Palm springs? You can drive Golf Carts on the roads there, which are silent and can go pretty fast, and they don’t seem to cause havok. When going downhill or on very smooth streets I will often shift my car into neutral. It becomes nearly silent when I do so, yet no pedestrian (blind or fully sighted) has ever stumbled into my car because of it. It is not the vehicle manufacturers responsibility to ensure that their vehicles are loud.

LostSailor (profile) says:

Re: Re: No Evidence...That Mike Bothered to Look For

Too bad you didn’t actually read those articles after you found them.

Actually, I did.

This study found that pedestrian and bicyclist crashes involving both HEVs and ICE vehicles commonly occurred on roadways, in zones with low speed limits, during daytime and in clear weather, with higher incidence rates for HEVs when compared to ICE vehicles.

And, to put your “going straight” quote from the study in context:

Incidence rate of pedestrian crashes in scenarios when vehicles make turns was significantly higher for HEVs when compared to ICE vehicles. There was no statistically significant difference in incidence rate of pedestrian crashes involving HEVs when compared to ICE vehicles when both type of vehicles were going straight.

And I would submit that it is in just these low-speed, turning maneuver situations when there is the greatest likelihood of pedestrians or cyclists being near cars (driveways, parking lots, crosswalks, etc.)

And while I agree that it’s a driver’s responsibility to avoid hitting pedestrians and cyclists, those pedestrians and cyclists also have some responsibility for avoiding being hit by cars. If they can’t hear them coming in situations where the cars might not be completely in visual range, it’s harder to avoid them.

We can certainly debate whether adding recorded engine sounds (or other sounds) is an appropriate solution (and I can’t see the harm in light of the safety benefits).

But the point of my comment was that Mike claimed (as he has in similar posts) that there was “no evidence” that quieter hybrids were any danger. I merely pointed to such evidence.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: No Evidence...That Mike Bothered to Look For

But the point of my comment was that Mike claimed (as he has in similar posts) that there was “no evidence” that quieter hybrids were any danger. I merely pointed to such evidence.

Ok well let’s look at the evidence you presented. The Sun-Sentinel article was based on the Department of Transportation study (and also has a misleading, fear-mongering title). So the Sun-Sentinel is not in itself evidence, but simply a reference to the study done by the Department of Transportation. The Department of Transportation study is based on 77 incidents involving Hybrid vehicles, vs 3,519 incidents involving Non-Hybrid vehicles. The “double” number referred to in the article’s headline is taken from the low speed incident data in which shows incident rates as follows (incidence rate is a measure of percentage of vehicles on the road that will be involved in an incident in the studied time period):
Going Straight: Hybrid 0.9%, Non-Hybrid 0.8%
Making a turn: Hybrid 1.8%, Non-Hybrid 1.0%
Slowing/Stopping: Hybrid 0.5%, Non-Hybrid 0.2%
Backing: Hybrid 5.3%, Non-Hybrid 2.9%
Entering/leaving parking: Hybrid 1.2%, Non-Hybrid 0.9%
Starting in traffic: Hybrid 2.9%, Non-Hybrid 1.2%
Other: Hybrid 0.3%, Non-Hybrid 0.2%

At first glance it appears that the hybrid vehicles are involved in a higher rate of incidents. But the flaw is that due to the small sample size (remember, only 77 incidents involving Hybrids were used in the study) the confidence interval becomes a whopping +/- 3% for the Hybrids. The confidence interval for the non-hybrid incidents is a much more reasonable +/-0.3% due to a much larger sample size of non-hybrid incidents. That means, for example, that the 5.3% number for “backing” may actually be as low as 2.3% or as high as 8.3%. The confidence interval of 3% for the Hybrids is larger than the any of the differences involved, so the differences are not actually statistically significant due to the small sample size. The study does make claims of statistical significance, but the calculations for statistical significance that they used appear to be based on only the total number of vehicles studied, and are therefore flawed. As a result, the Department of Transportation Study cannot actually be viewed as evidence either. A new study would have to be conducted with a much larger sampling of incidents involving Hybrids before any real conclusions could be drawn.

So, no your examples still do not offer any evidence that the lower noise levels in Hybrids cause more pedestrian accidents.

Even if conclusions could be drawn from this study(which they can’t), why would that actually warrant a mandatory loudening of Hybrids?

LostSailor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No Evidence...That Mike Bothered to Look For

I, too, would very much like to see further study with a larger sample. The DOT report says as much as well.

But I disagree that this can’t be used as evidence that quiet hybrids aren’t a greater danger to pedestrians and cyclists. We can argue how much more of a danger, and if so what solutions might be undertaken to mitigate that danger, but I still think Mike’s claim that there is no evidence is false. If he’d taken the study into account and dismissed it as you have, he would have at least been more accurate (though I might still disagree).

And, for the record, I don’t think that a “mandatory loudening” of hybrids is warranted. However, if car manufacturers want to provide it, I also don’t seem much wrong in that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Car sounds DRM

Of course the interface to the car to load sounds will be heavily DRM’d and you’ll only be able to load sounds purchased from the manufacturer or their “authorized” sources. Any attempts to do otherwise will be a violation of the DMCA and probably other laws that the auto manufacturers will purchase to protect their market. One of the things a cop might check along with your insurance if you get pulled over is the status of your cartone licensing. Don’t let it expire or you could go to the pokey. Disabling the “tone device” will also be illegal (along with keeping you car from starting). Of course, the law will also strike a “balance” and require that cars come with one “free” tone. It will likely sound something like a wet fart.

_skhn (profile) says:

I’d also like to point out that problems such as this would be moot if city planners did the intelligent thing and designed cities so that bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists never encountered each other. It’s as simple as designing distinct lanes for each mode of transport that never encounter each other due to tiering, tunnels, ramps, etc.

Ryan says:

Re: Re:

I was unaware that there was such an issue with car-bike collisions that we should add millions of dollars in additional mechanisms to city transportation. I’m always pissed when I encounter bike lanes that are almost never used, or a cluster of handicapped spaces that ever get half-full at best.

Honestly people, why do we need a law for everything? Why do we need a government full of ignorant and self-serving people to cater to every group, no matter how small and no matter how costly to the majority? Is it not enough that I avoid plowing into blind people lollygagging across the highway? I have to pay for noise devices for my car and a bunch of new tunnels for the three bikers a day that use it and are allegedly too stupid to look both ways for oncoming traffic? Can we occasionally assume that people will go on living if we don’t coddle them from cradle to grave?

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I read through all the sarcasm and and other crap wondering why no one had the “right” answer – then I got to this post by _skhn. It is practically moronic that pedestrians and motorized vehicles travel on the same plane (street level) in the first place.

Give me quiet cars that travel below the surface so the rest of the world can be enjoyed in all its natural and man made wonder! during the fossil fuel conversion which will happen over the next several decades feel free to scrub the emissions from the subterranean roadways before you unleash it on the world. Take the brown out of downtown!!

How cool would it be to be able to walk or ride a non-motorized vehicle virtually anywhere on the surface?!

Obviously the difficulty will be in neighborhoods where you’ll somehow need to get your car into the driveway from below.

Chris Johnson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I read through all the sarcasm and and other crap wondering why no one had the “right” answer – then I got to this post by _skhn. It is practically moronic that pedestrians and motorized vehicles travel on the same plane (street level) in the first place.” Ditto.

Another problem: if everyone has a custom car tone, walking around the city would be like hearing everyone’s ringtone going off at once. Without stopping. Like a 24-hour out-of-tune GirlTalk concert.

If this happens (which it shouldn’t but probably will), there needs to be standard sound and max volume.

Mike Roberts says:

Why not have cars emit a silent radio signal that can be picked up by a hearing-aid-like device that blind people can wear. The closer the car is, the louder the noise in the hearing aid.

The implications would be impressive because if a blind person can use it then so can a computer which could use the same information to determine the location of cars around it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Or perhaps cell phones can have a setting that detects this signal and either vibrates or beeps (or makes a ring tone) depending on the setting and the closer the car is the louder it beeps or the more violently it vibrates. Or if you’re about to get hit it delivers an electric shock to wake you up.

Andrew Calcutt (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Or perhaps cell phones can have a setting that detects this signal and either vibrates or beeps (or makes a ring tone)”

That actually doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

I’m not really for adding sounds to the car, but some type of wireless signal may be an interesting idea. That way, devices could be made to detect the cars signals (if they are in motion).

If the argument for adding this is to help people with disabilities, they could carry a device on them that alerts them in any way necessary (sound, vibration, flashing)

The downside is having a wireless signal on every car could lead to easy location tracking

Overcast (profile) says:

But what good would ‘custom’ sounds be? If a blind person hears some off-beat ‘cartone’ – will they just assume it’s a car?

So there would really have to be a set-standard in order for it to address the problem that it’s supposed to be causing.

But of course, corporate $$$ will win out over common sense – as usual. No problems will be solved and instead of just having to put up with annoying ring tones, cars will be driving around playing stuff from their favorite bands or porn videos.

I guess it all that much more gives truth to that ‘de-motivator’ saying: “GOVERNMENT: If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions.”

Ben (profile) says:

US Pedestrians

I’m from the UK, a country which in my expeirence is more pedestrian friendly than the US. As children we’re drilled with the basics of how to safely cross a road. LOOK BOTH WAYS.

I’ve been living in the US for a year. The ignorance of the average pedestrian is amazing. People will routinely step out into the road without giving the slightest thought that a car might be bearing down on them. This is also reflected in the rules which says a car can not overtake a school bus on wither side of the road as a child may run out. They should be taught to respect the road, as it’s deadly.

So, with respect to noises on electric cars – don’t get me wrong, it’s a geeks wet dream to have knightrider noises etc – the burden should be put on the pedestrian to check that the road is clear.

It’s basic Darwinism in action.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve personally accelerated faster than I should have (e.g. in parking lots) while renting a hybrid, and only noticed once I was already going faster than I should be.

I think the relative lack of engine noise almost certainly contributed to this, although it’s probably something I could get used to.

I think more noise in general could be helpful for things like cars backing out of driveways (or even going forward out of them), although I suppose I should be careful what I wish for: the backing truck beeps are really annoyingly loud and high-pitched.

As for money, I’m sure it just costs a few extra dollars to to put in these speakers and whatnot, which, compared to the price of a car, is practically nothing. The question should just be whether this is a good idea in the first place, not the role silly sound effects will play in the car commercials of the future.

Anonymous Coward says:


Can we add smell too?

We could use a sound and smell generator that’s powered by some sort of refined crude oil product. This way we’d only need a single device for both outputs.

*OR* people could be less stupid when they’re driving, walking, and riding.

Perhaps, if we quit letting people get away with stupidity, we’d have less stupidity? Best intersections I’ve seen in cities: one direction goes, then other direction goes, then all pedestrian traffic goes. Never a conflict between drivers and pedestrians. Simple and much safer than noisy cars. What do you do with hearing impaired people? Or people jacked into their music players? Or distracted people?

Anyway, given the recent track record of the US, whatever solution is crapped out by the political process will stink.

Fred says:

more pollution

While hybrid are supposed to reduce pollution level on one hand, we are going to raise it on the other… Come on. That is very lame. Who elected those tards?

So to compensate for that, are we going to ban ring tones, and force people to use them on vibe?

Anyway, since stupidity always find a way, I want a hybrid (i.e. solar-powered battery coupled with pedals) Smart, but I want to have a 18 wheels truck sound…

Anonymous Coward says:


There actually used to be laws in the early days of automobiles that would have addressed this situation, but we foolishly repealed them. These laws required that flagmen (flag-persons, today) walk in front of automobiles to warn others of the approaching danger. At night the flagman was also required to carry a lantern. The flagman could thus warn both deaf and blind people as well as children, animals and idiots with no better sense to get out of the way.

All we need to do is bring back the flagman laws. Think of the children! Think of the animals! Think of the idiots!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If that were true, don’t you think the RIAA would go after major audio sound system manufacturers? What are 12″ sub woofers and 10,000 watt amplifiers for if not for playing music really f***ing loud so that everyone within three blocks can hear it.

Isn’t that what Canada did adding a tax to blank CDs and DVDs and sending the payments to the music industry? It’s hardware, and since it exists, it’s ‘obvious’ that users are going to use it solely for ‘piracy’ (or so they say). So why not tax ultra loud hardware like they do media hardware?

DocMenach (profile) says:

Real life example

Here a true real life story that happened to me a couple weeks ago:
I was walking through the local grocery store parking lot. I nearly walked into a silent hybrid vehicle that was driving down the lane. Both the driver and I noticed before anything happened. My first thought was not “Those things need to be louder”, my first thought was actually “I need to pay better attention”.

Azrael (profile) says:

Morons in a hurry

Yes. it’s a very good decision. People who don’t bother to look where they’re going must be protected. Ant this type of measure has always worked: at the begging of the 20th century it was mandatory to have a person with a red flag walking in front of every car to make sure everybody, and especially horses, would know you’re about to come and run them over. Just look what nice flags we have now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Rather than burden the rest of society with constant, higher levels of noise pollution, why don’t advocates for the blind develop technologically feasible sensors the blind can wear that will alert them of large incoming objects, relative to their position and direction of travel, and give them audio alerts such as “person, 20 feet, 2 o’clock”, “vehicle, 100 feet, 9 o’clock”, etc. Their sensors’ speakers would only have to be loud enough for them to hear it and would produce far less noise than requiring all vehicles to be noisy. Another solution, though more invasive for the average driver who would bear the expense in the price of his vehicle, would be to install a warning device on all cars that would only sound when in proximity to a blind person who was wearing a passive triggering beacon of some sort. There have to be more creative ways to solve the problems than the one-fits all government solution of making cars noisy.

Reverend Draco (profile) says:

Fake Car Noises

I remember reading a book of science fiction short stories, back in the late 70s. . . An aged Baby Boomer is working on his (I think) Camaro in the garage. . . his grandson comes out and they’re talking about the old car. . . Gramps takes the car for a test drive, and it sounds like a bad mofo. . . turns out the sounds were a recording, because the old car had been converted to electric, there were no more internal combustion engines.

Wise One says:

Re: Silence?

Politicians MUST however, let the populace know that they’re still alive and kicking! And make use of the thousands of lawyers being ejaculated out of our law schools annually (w/o ever even passing a bar exam). Perhaps if we shut down our law schools for a few generations we might replace lunacy with sanity over time.


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