Say goodbye to the days when electric cars can sneak up on you. New legislation in the EU means that any hybrid and electric vehicles sold in the territory must have an acoustic vehicle alert system fitted, a system which emits sounds so that pedestrians and cyclists aren't caught unawares.
The legislation effects all four-wheeled vehicles, meaning that cars and vans must make some noise when traveling under 12mph or reversing – which aims to prevent accidents in parking lots.
As of yet, there is no rule on what the sound emitted should be, so different automakers are composing their own effects. Last year, Citroen unveiled the Ami One Concept urban vehicle, which plays a jaunty little tune to announce its arrival. Mercedes-Benz have gone a different route, hiring Linkin Park to add a dose of rock to their next wave of electric vehicles.
Transport for London (TfL) is currently experimenting with acoustic alerts for the electric versions of London’s iconic red buses, which are expected to be seen on the city’s streets later this year. Unfortunately, the various sound effects proposed, such as a noise like someone blowing bubbles through water and intermittent beeps, haven't been well-received during testing.
John Welsman, a representative from Guide Dogs UK, explained that “TfL want to know if they can create a sound that is not necessarily like a combustion engine, but is something new and unique,". However, he denounced the options as "all very spaceshippy" and complained that sounded anything like the traditional buses that blind people are familiar with hearing in London.
"The feedback from the room was that it would still need to be indicative of speed, direction, acceleration and deceleration of the vehicle,” Welsman commented.
It seems that, sometimes, the best sound effects are the traditional ones.