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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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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
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 ( 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
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 :)

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