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Lotus Sound Synthesis Technology  (Source:
Device makes the Prius sound like a Lamborghini

Electric vehicles are hot right now and for the most part people see them as great for the environment and a welcome addition to the roads around the country. However, there is a down side to the electric vehicle -- other than a short range -- and that is that they make virtually no noise.

To many drivers, a silent car is a good thing and if electric cars take over the roads in the decades to come, the thought of traffic jam in near silence is much better than the loud idling and sound of combustion we get today. However, for those who are blind and for bicyclists, electric cars can be dangerous.

The Toyota Prius is a good example; when it travels at low speeds and runs on battery power without the combustion engine, it is virtually silent. Without being able to hear an electric car, the visually impaired could step out in front of the vehicle without knowing it was even there.

Congress thinks that the low noise levels of electric cars could be such of a hazard that a bill was introduced to require a minimum sound level on all cars produced for America.

If the bill is made into law, Lotus stands to make a bundle on new technology that it has been demonstrating to address the specific issue of noise -- or lack thereof -- on electric and hybrid vehicles. The technology is called Lotus Sound Synthesis and in essence it is nothing more than a sound system to make sounds pedestrians can hear. Lotus connected the system to a stock Toyota Prius to demonstrate the technology.

The system consists of a 300-watt speaker, a throttle position sensor, amplifier, and synthesis controller. The system would produce engine sounds that would rise and fall -- just like the sounds of a combustion engine -- during acceleration. Lotus says that when the combustion engine kicks in, the speaker system automatically turns off. The speaker itself is a waterproof unit mounted near the cars radiator and according to Lotus the driver hears virtually no sound. The sound could reportedly be made to mimic various engines.

Wired quotes Mike Kimberly, CEO of Group Lotus saying, "We hope that legislators introduce minimum noise requirements for vehicles to encourage the adoption of technologies, such as ours, which will ultimately increase pedestrian safety."

The Toyota Prius isn’t the only car that could benefit from Lotus' system. Honda is bringing the Insight back in 2010 and Tesla has its Roadster on the streets now as well.

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RE: Bubble wrap!
By ultimaone on 8/7/2008 2:47:51 PM , Rating: 2
so long as the law states that the pedestrian always has the right of way, then ppl will just continue to step out without looking, cause the 2000 lb car is supposed to stop on a dime.....

RE: Bubble wrap!
By FITCamaro on 8/7/2008 2:56:34 PM , Rating: 2
Pedestrians only have right of way all the time in some states. In Florida if you walk out into the middle of the street, you don't have the right of way. I know in Taxachussetts you do.

RE: Bubble wrap!
By isorfir on 8/7/2008 3:26:54 PM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure in Michigan they do not have the right of way if it's not a crosswalk. A few years back in my town a blind man was struck and killed by a car, but the driver was not found to be liable since the gentleman was trying to cross a 5 lane highway sans crosswalk.

RE: Bubble wrap!
By foxtrot9 on 8/7/2008 3:56:05 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I would love to see someone in NY try that one out and see what happens

RE: Bubble wrap!
By chiadog on 8/7/2008 3:20:45 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately that there are tons (;)) more cars/trucks double that weight roaming around the street than 2000 pounders.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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