Toyota Joins List of Automakers Including Pedestrian Alert Sounds on Plug-Ins and Hybrids

· · 7 years ago

As we've previously reported—to a gregarious response—the topic of adding pedestrian alert sounds to plug-ins and hybrids when traveling at low speeds with little noise is a polarizing one.

Advocacy associations for the blind, elderly and other such higher risk populations argue that these cars are more dangerous to those groups because there are few cues as to their impending approach. Anti-noise pollution organizations say that quieter vehicles are where we want to head anyways, so why would we ruin that kind of progress with self-imposed noises. And, some electric car advocates say that the "silent-but-deadly" argument is just another ploy to scare potential customers away from the vehicles by those determined to thwart the electric car's rise. Some people go even a step further and say that by treating these disadvantaged groups as being so frail and helpless, we are doing them a disservice.

While there is likely truth and wisdom in all of those group's conclusions, what is clear is that it's a topic that little in the way of fact is currently known about. There are virtually no studies that show a positive or negative link between the silence of next gen vehicles and an increase in accidents with unaware pedestrians. Also, no standard sounds have yet been agreed upon by governments or automakers that we can use to evaluate whether or not these are noises we can live with. Almost all of the debates that are occurring about this topic are uninformed to the point that it feels like we're all banging our heads against the wall in a repeated cycle.

Nevertheless, the regulations have started coming—namely in Japan and the U.S.—and in anticipation of eventual adoption of those regulations, builders of these next gen vehicles have started including their own in-house developed pedestrian alert sounds. Nissan, with their LEAF, have included a rather quiet and futuristic electric whooshing sound that drivers can turn off if they want, but otherwise is on all the time when driving at low speeds. GM, with the Volt, has included a driver activated alert sound that chirps when the driver pulls on a lever at the steering column.

And now Toyota, with their Prius and the upcoming Plug-in Prius, have added a new alert sound as well. Initially the sound will be available as an add-on to the Prius in Japan for about $150 extra and will emit a synthesized electric motor sound at speeds below 25 km/h. You can listen to it in the Japanese language video below.

Toyota's new pedestrian alert sound for the Prius.

So, even though there are plenty of questions left unanswered about the efficacy and, even, the necessity of pedestrian alert sounds, it seems like the winds of change are clearly blowing in one direction—for better or worse. What do you think, is this something that's inevitable, or is it something we still have time left to evaluate?


· · 7 years ago

It is really unfortunate the auto makers are seemingly going along with this without so much as questioning the need for it. I haven't heard or read of even one of the major automobile companies asking for information that would support the the claim that this is necessary. I hate to give up, but unless we get some support from the industry it is a losing battle to oppose this ridiculous measure.

· · 7 years ago

What a sound ! Just might keep me from buying ?

· · 7 years ago

Tech, keep in mind it's an optional add-on.

· · 7 years ago

It is definitely a detractor for EVs. I'm ok with an operator controlled momentary alert like the Volt allegedly has but nothing that automatically comes on below a particular speed.
The laws should mandate that ICE cars be quieter so they don't mask out the EVs instead, rather than make it a shouting match.

· Greenman (not verified) · 7 years ago

This seems silly. Why not drive like they do in certain other parts of the world? Just toot the horn at regular intervals.

· Mariordo (not verified) · 7 years ago

The Wikipedia article "Electric vehicle warning sounds" has a summary of the studies supporting the risk for pedestrians (you can follow the links in the sources to check the details). As suggested in another post by Tom Moloughney here, Volvo's Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake might be a superior solution, but an expensive one.

Fortunately, all sound warning systems developed for EV's so far have a manual on/off switch (including the one for the Prius as shown in the video), so drivers can applied judgement as to on which circunstances the electronic generated sound might be warranted. Let's hope that the upcoming regulations keep it manual.

· · 7 years ago

As far as I can tell, the default of these systems will be ON. You can manually turn them off, but the next time you restart, it will again be ON. That's not quite "manual" operation in my way of thinking.

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