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
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
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.