One of the benefits of owning a hybrid or electric vehicle has always been its advertised whisper-quiet performance. Apparently, the eerie silence has ruffled the feathers of safety advocates, so now that bit of electric-vehicle distinctiveness may be scuttled.
The third-generation Toyota Prius will get an optional pedestrian warning system in Japan and possibly in the U.S. down the line, according to The Associated Press. The onboard device will automatically produce an artificial sound, supposedly an amplified and synthesized reproduction of the noise an electric motor makes – go figure. The noise is activated at speeds below 15 mph, and it fluctuates in pitch relative to the vehicle’s speed, which is supposed to help pedestrians gauge proximity in relation to the hybrid. You can watch the distinctively Japanese video below to get a better understanding.
The system is a dealer-installed option in Japan that costs about $148, and Toyota may offer the system in the U.S. and other markets, Toyota spokeswoman Monika Saito told the AP. Japan gets the system now because of a recent regulation that requires some sort of pedestrian noisemaker option in near-quiet vehicles. Similar legislation has been brought up in the U.S.
The Chevrolet Volt will come with a pedestrian warning system that’s activated from one of the steering-wheel stalks. GM goes with a chirping alert that’s activated only at low speeds. Nissan recently showed off a system in the Leaf that’s similar to Toyota’s; their alerts seem like sound effects from alien spacecraft in sci-fi movies. The future is now I guess.
Prius Gets Sound Option to Protect Pedestrians (The Associated Press)