In response to mounting pressure from pedestrian rights groups and advocates for the visually impaired, Nissan has announced it will add warning sounds to its upcoming electric car, the Leaf.
Four years in the making, Nissan developed its Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians with the help of acoustic psychology experts at Vanderbilt University, a Hollywood sound studio, and others. The carmaker says their goal was to come up with sounds that were distinctive and easily heard by a wide range of people, including the elderly and hearing impaired. Another aim was to make sure the sound was not so intrusive that it would unnecessarily add to noise pollution.
Nissan says the project quickly grew much larger than originally anticipated, and that they looked at, or listened to, more than 100 different sounds before settling on finalists.
And the winners? When the Leaf is going forward at low and moderate speeds, a whirring sound will be heard. In reverse, pedestrians will hear a chime, repeating much like the beeping sound often heard when trucks are backing up.
The system uses a computer and synthesizer, and it broadcasts the sounds through an underhood-mounted speaker. It will be standard on the Leaf when it goes on sale in December.
As we wrote in “Hybrid and electric cars may get noisier for safety”: We've long been concerned about pedestrian safety related to silent-running hybrids and electrics. It's not only the visually impaired that are at risk but all pedestrians, including children, who may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Requiring these vehicles to give audible alerts just makes good sense.