Electric cars risky for UK pedestrians

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Car Rental News - 05/11/2009


Concerns raised over pedestrian and cyclists' safety

After decades of tests to lessen vehicle noise, car manufacturers are now looking for techniques to make near-silent electric automobiles meet the minimum noise standards.

Major safety concerns are now being centred around electric vehicles because they give virtually no noise when being driven near to pedestrians, particularly among the blind. Lord Dalston recently urged the UK government to review the potential risks of whisper-quiet engines to children and cyclists. Also, similar concerns were submitted to the US Senate and the Japanese government.

According to Transport Policy Officer John Welsman of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, aural information about the direction, distance, speed and type of approaching cars are critical safety aids for the blind pedestrians and their dogs. He suggested that battery-propelled cars should have a consistent and immediately identifiable sound to signal their approach.

Lotus Engineering and Harman International, a UK-based audio specialist, had worked together to develop engine noise technologies that can create sounds to warn pedestrians of approaching near-silent electric and hybrid vehicles. The HALOsonic system, developed by both companies and already tested to a hybrid Toyota Prius demonstrator, is soon to be produced for mass market.

Andy Mackay, an engineer in Lotus, said that HALOsonic’s Electronic Sound Synthesis transmits sound both through the vehicle’s external speaker system and inside cabin. It also allows automobile manufacturers to create their own engine sound to help pedestrians easily identify the brand of approaching car. The noise pollution produced by an electric-powered vehicle is minimal, as the sound is projected forward.

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