We’ve all experienced it. Just as you step on the gas to accelerate on a green light, you hear the roar of a nearby engine and see someone in a car trying to show off the power of their car’s engine. While many of us probably think loud noises from a car’s engine is annoying and disturbing to the peace, have you ever considered that it may actually be making the roads safer?
For years, automakers have been working hard to make cars as quiet as possible, after all, who wants to drive in a car that clunks down the road, alerting everyone of its presence?
Currently, plug-in hybrid and electric cars not only reduce air pollution, they also cut down on noise pollution with their almost-silent engines. But this silence creates a new safety problem for pedestrians: a car too quiet to be heard.
According to a study conducted by the University of California Riverside, hybrids may not be noisy enough. In the study, researchers found that test subjects could correctly judge the approach of a non-hybrid car traveling at slow speeds when it was about 28 feet away. However, these same subjects could only judge the approach of a hybrid car traveling below 20 miles per hour when it was seven feet away—meaning they only have one second to react to an incoming hybrid car.
Luckily, researchers believe that at speeds above 20 to 25 miles per hour, hybrid cars are likely to generate enough noise to make audible at a longer distance.
What does this study mean for your? Well, slow moving hybrid cars may pose a threat for children and pedestrians who are unable to hear hybrid or electric cars approaching in parking lots or on residential streets.
On Jan 28, 2009, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 was introduced to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. This bill would establish a federal safety noise standard to protect pedestrians from ultra-quiet cars.
According to the New York Times , some hybrid automakers have been working with Hollywood special-effects experts to customize engine noises. Nissan, Toyota and BMW have all been working on engine sounds for their future vehicles. BMW is even working on the possibility of allowing buyers to choose their own noise on future electric BMWs.
So listen up, in the near future, you might be hearing some interesting sounds and noises on the road alerting you to a hybrid car’s approach.