Lotus adds noise to electric carsNew technology aimed at boosting pedestrian safety

12 August 2008

Lotus has unveiled new technology to beef up the sound of electric and hybrid vehicles with artificial engine noises.

It follows concerns that these vehicles pose safety risks for both cyclists and pedestrians because they're almost silent when running on electric power.

The Lotus system plays a synthesised engine sound from a speaker mounted at the front of the car.

Speaker

The technology has been designed to mimic a conventional engine and will, for example, reproduce the sound of an engine speeding up or slowing down.

It kicks in automatically when the hybrid car runs on its electric motor and turns off when the car's petrol engine takes over.

Lotus is hopeful that manufacturers of electric and hybrid cars will adopt the technology.

Safety implications

Clive Wood, who is transport policy officer at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said: ‘Blind and partially sighted people use the noise of oncoming traffic as a cue for when it is safe to cross a road – if a ‘quiet’ hybrid electric vehicle is approaching then they will no longer have this cue and are immediately put at risk.’

He added: ‘Guide Dogs believes further research and development is needed to address the issues of identifying 'quiet vehicles' for blind and partially sighted people.

‘The charity recognises the environmental benefits of these vehicles however more consideration needs to be given to the safety implications to visually impaired pedestrians.’