Hybrid Cars: Silent But Potentially Deadly On the Road

    June 8, 2012
    WebProNews Staff
    Comments are off for this post.

Hybrid cars, as well as their electric brethren, make so little noise on the road that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is considering putting together guidelines for automobile manufactures that would require these vehicles to maintain a minimum noise level. So the next time you hear a hybrid car buzzing down the road, there’s a very strong possibility that the sounds coming from beneath the hood are completely simulated.

According to Chris Matyszczyk over at his CNET blog, hybrid and electric cars that are traveling at 35mph are 37 percent more likely to crush pedestrians and 66 percent more likely to cream bicyclists than those automobiles that require old-fashioned gasoline for fuel. The reason, of course, is that these vehicles make very little, if any, noise, giving individuals little warning when one is quickly barreling down upon them.

As a result of these accidents, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has decided to impose a few regulations regarding the minimum amount of noise that a car can make. Although it may seem more than a little silly to some, the idea makes perfect sense, particularly in congested areas where pedestrians and cyclists rely on these sounds to make decisions while navigating the busy streets.

Currently, the 2012 Toyota Prius has a built-in noisemaker, as does Audi’s 2012 R8 eTron sports car, which comes equipped with sound effects crafted by a professional musician. By 2017, all hybrid and electric cars will be required to have some sort of simulated sounds in order to overpower the silence these automobiles generate.

For a few examples of quiet cars equipped with sound effects, take a look at the videos embedded below. To be honest, it’s kind of fascinating.

  • Ralf

    Just what we need–more noise pollution!
    As a biker/walker, I know I have to pay more attention and quiet cars are NOT the problem. It is the lazy, rude, selfish, ??? driver that thinks no one else deserves to be on the road.

    I also drive, and try to be considerate, and DO NOT use my phone!!!

  • stephenf

    For God’s SAKE. Yeah, we could make cars with artificial noisemakers when they’re running electric, so absolutely nobody has to adjust their behavior even one bit. Or, given the fact that we may be on the way to more and more of these things, maybe nothing _but_ electric in a generation, maybe pedestrians and cyclists just need to, you know, maybe pick up their heads and look, and stop using noise as a discriminating factor for whether there’s a car present or not.

    Or maybe, with all the noses pressed to iPhones and the near-daily reports of text-sending nitwits falling off walkways or curbs, or getting hit by cars, maybe we’re just seeing a particularly strong run of natural consequences and Darwinism.

    • stephenf

      Alright, I get it. At least two or three too many “maybes,” and yet another reminder to edit before sending. Sorry about that.

    • http://yahoo.com George M.

      That’s like having the pedestrians complaining b/c they have to turn their cell phones higher…to hear. Let it go. How much noise does a bike make? People over eighteen have to understand something, the government/automakers shouldn’t solve this solution to conserving gas. We’re going to have to take this responsibility ourselves and “look both ways”.
      The glass is ‘half full’, don’t drink it if you’re going to make “half empty?!”.

    • Bill Burns

      My blind friend finds it very difficult to use anything other than noise to know if there’s a car nearby that he needs avoid walking in front of.

  • Aaron

    I was nearly struck in a parking lot by a hybrid. They are crazy silent. So this is a nice idea. Other than beads on the spokes. lol

  • Hmmm

    Not sure why they needed to hire a composer to simulate the sound of an engine with keyboards and such. Just sample the noise produced by a traditional car. Problem solved.

  • J. Killingsworth

    My first encounter with a Toyota Prius was in a Rite Aid parking lot where it almost ran me down. I didn’t hear it coming…!

    • http://yahoo.com Jason

      How about you keep your EYES open for the big CAR coming at you. Pedestrians are supposed to keep an eye out as well. Wow people are stupid!

  • Steffan

    I think the auto makers should put little bicycle bells in the cars, so when you approach a pedestrian, you can just go “ding, ding, ding.”

  • http://commonsense.com Mo

    Most noise from cars at that speed comes from TIRES, not ENGINES. Currently, there is legislation that DOES require hybrids to have noisemakers similiar to the Toyota one highlighted above. Stand on the side of the road for more than 30 seconds for christs sake.

    Whats the point of this article???

    Why is America getting dumber?

    Because of articles like this.

    • john doe

      Just another way for the auto company to make money as I pay the dealer $90.00 to disable the noise making device. What about people who get disabling headaches when they hear too much noise. That is why I bought a 2011 Prius. Our government is stupid. Cars should be made as quiet as humanly possible.

  • fred

    It silly to me. A lot of gas engines are so silent you also cant hear them running. Maybe they should quit putting muffers on cars so the would sound like Marley bikes.