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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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Fresh new idea...
By jtemplin on 8/7/2008 6:50:44 PM , Rating: 2
Instead of putting this burden on the majority. The burden being decresed efficiency, higher cost, useless noise (pollution). I would imagine increased road noise near residential areas won't be beneficial to those who CAN hear. So why not put the burden of expensive technological outfitting on the minority. With government subsidization so its all nice and PC.

So here is my proposal: Give the blind some sort of hybrid-car Geiger counter, or a caged canary if you will.

My grandfather recently purchased a hybrid and was notified of the potential for EM interference with his pacemaker. From this anecdote I would imagine the powerful batteries and electric motor should have an EM signature that could be read at a distance.

Range uselessly short you say? so how about a relatively low power/range RF signal identifying the hybrid to a some sort of communicator the blind person has on their person which informs them of their impending and certain death. It won't be too long before ever moving object on the road intercommunicates anyway, heres an excuse to start that can be thrown in under the ADA.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't want to see any blind people getting run down in the street, nor any hearing people for that matter, but there is a poor business case for placing the burden on the drivers.

If you can spend far less to solve the same problem with an equivalent outcome, then why not?

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki
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