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Lotus Sound Synthesis Technology  (Source: Paultan.org)
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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By masher2 (blog) on 8/7/2008 3:03:26 PM , Rating: 5
If a blind person is roaming aimlessly about streets, depending on nothing but their sense of hearing to keep them safe, they're eventually going to get hit anyway.

Adding more noise pollution isn't the answer. How about a handheld technology that allows the blind to sense oncoming cars whether or not they're making noise?


By gmyx on 8/7/2008 3:22:33 PM , Rating: 2
Don't get me wrong, I agree that we don't need extra noise out there. A big part of navigating for a visually impaired individual is 'seeing' the environment with their cane and / or dog (If they choose that have one) and listening to you environment.

There are devices that help navigate but are based off of GPS. The cars would be better suited to have small transmitters that these devices can detect and tell them to stop.


By FITCamaro on 8/7/2008 3:30:28 PM , Rating: 4
People hardly stop for ambulances anymore. What makes you think they'll stop to some alert in their car saying a blind person is nearby?


By elpresidente2075 on 8/7/2008 3:47:53 PM , Rating: 4
I believe it is the blind person who would be told to stop in that example. Personally I find that to be a great solution ideally, but infeasible for many reasons, cost first and foremost.


By gmyx on 8/7/2008 7:31:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I believe it is the blind person who would be told to stop in that example.


That is exactly what I meant. Really, the technology already exists, all that would be needed is a boosted RFID and the GPS guiders (http://www.humanware.com/en-canada/products/gps/tr... to work together. Granted the trekker and other similar products are quite expensive (2500$C if memory server me right), they do work fairly well. You still need to be aware of your environment, but it would help to have a more interactive environment, not just cars.


By SilthDraeth on 8/8/2008 2:52:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
by FITCamaro on August 7, 2008 at 3:30 PM People hardly stop for ambulances anymore. What makes you think they'll stop to some alert in their car saying a blind person is nearby?


I saw this a ton in Georgia. Once I saw several vehicles pull out in front of an Ambulance that was waiting to turn at an intersection, the people where military or contractors trying to get onto the Air Force base before the signal changed.

It sickened me.


By Motamid on 8/8/2008 11:23:53 PM , Rating: 3
Because they want to use their regenerative breaking of course :)


By NullSubroutine on 8/8/2008 1:28:14 AM , Rating: 3
Simple, add a devise to all cars or only 'silent ones' that emit a radio frequency that is picked up by a device that blind people can purchase for a very low cost. All it does is make a noise that gets louder as a vehicle gets closer and quieter it gets further away. Simple, cheap, and not creating any noise pollution.


By GaryJohnson on 8/10/2008 12:07:33 AM , Rating: 2
Imagine if we could get everyone to add a position transmitter to their car. It could revolutionize traffic monitoring, let alone help the visually impaired.


By Murloc on 8/10/2008 5:54:51 AM , Rating: 2
but how can you hear where the car is if you have a radio transmitter?
If it's a crossing the blind will hear all the time beep beep but he won't know where the car is.


By NullSubroutine on 8/10/2008 10:29:19 AM , Rating: 2
I think there are receivers that are sophisticated enough to detect what direction a signal is coming from. Hell, the transmitter could do that for it.


By blaster5k on 8/7/2008 3:33:06 PM , Rating: 5
Agreed. I've been looking forward to the day when traffic noise outside can barely be heard. That's the way it should be.

The sound levels around highways and major roads are usually loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage as is. I don't see why we wouldn't want to reduce them. The needs of those with disabilities can be met in other ways.


By lightfoot on 8/7/2008 6:23:43 PM , Rating: 2
Most highway noise is caused by the tires of cars against the asphalt, not the engines of the cars. There are a few exceptions but they are rare.

I believe the danger is at low speeds in pedestrian heavy areas. A speaker can't compete with the sound of rubber slapping pavement at 60+ MPH.


By ChronoReverse on 8/7/2008 6:24:53 PM , Rating: 2
At 60MPH, you shouldn't be crossing the motorway haphazardly even with eyes that work


By lightfoot on 8/7/2008 6:32:43 PM , Rating: 2
No doubt, I was just replying to the previous comment that stated:
quote:
The sound levels around highways and major roads are usually loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage as is. I don't see why we wouldn't want to reduce them. The needs of those with disabilities can be met in other ways.


By SergeantGardner on 8/11/2008 1:31:03 AM , Rating: 2
This is meant for speeds at which the engine is not running, meaning electric only. I doubt that includes 60+. I fully agree that this is a rather useless technology that would not be worth cost/annoyance, but I would like to see a Prius driving down the road with a ferrari engine sound blasting out of a 300W speaker. Would make me want one...


By TheDoc9 on 8/7/2008 4:12:22 PM , Rating: 5
We cant use a smart idea like that Masher, think of how much money Lotus wouldn't make.


By TSS on 8/7/2008 6:26:03 PM , Rating: 5
aside from the projects already underway for the blind to see again, why do anything at all?

ask yourself this: how many blind people get hit by a prius every year, and how many people who can see/hear/feel/smell/taste + optional 6th sense get hit by a prius every year?

but this whole situation boils down to just 1 thing: very, very bored lawmakers.


By William Gaatjes on 8/8/2008 8:11:15 AM , Rating: 2
If an electric car makes half the noise of a modern car it is silent for us and stil very noticable for blind people. Most blind people i know of beat any visual ok person when it comes to locating the origin of a sound.

How much sound does a normal good condition car make and what is the minumum sound level an electric car should make according to the bill ? I am interested.

I once read about a project of making a sonar system for blind people. In time this sonar for blind people will be technologically evolved enough to notice cars or any moving object and inform the person using it. I think that is a better solution then a car tracker. Because you also need a bike tracker. An electric wheelchair tracker. A jogging person tracker. Etcetera...



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