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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 PrinceGaz on 8/7/2008 5:24:45 PM , Rating: 5
On the contrary, blind people do have better hearing. To quote from a reliable source:

Being blind, you have developed other senses to compensate.

Prerequisite: Permanently blind for at least three months

Benefit: You gain +4 to all Listen checks, and the ability to take 10 on any Listen check, regardless of condition. Listen is considered a class skill for you. You also gain the feat Blind-Fight.

The +4 to Listen checks combined with the option to "take a 10" on the check pretty much assures a blind person will be able to hear an electric car fine. A non-blind person crossing a road who didn't see a car approaching could easily fail to hear it if they made a bad roll (they cannot "take a 10").

Whilst I'm glad I am sighted, the advantage blind people gain to their hearing is significant.

By LordanSS on 8/7/2008 6:56:04 PM , Rating: 2
Blind people have improved tactile senses, and usually a better spatial memory regarding known environs.

Studies have demonstrated how the brain adapts when a person becomes sight-impaired. Brain regions that usually process "sight" information are converted, and end up processing tactile information instead. In a sense, said person can "see" with their hands.

As for hearing, sight-impaired people are prone to the same problems an average person is: time. As time passes, and people age, gradual hearing loss is not uncommon.

Still... this doesn't mean electric cars need to have a boombox tucked in it just to make noises for people walking around. Sight-impaired people that also suffer from other handicaps should not roam about unsupervised, as they are a danger not only to themselves, but also other people around them. From a human escort, to a guide-dog, they need the assistance.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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