Suggested Sounds For Too-Quiet Cars

With the popularity of electric and hybrid cars growing, automakers are concerned that the cars may be too quiet. They are trying to find a suitable sound to warn pedestrians of on-coming traffic. We offer some suggestions of sounds for the cars of the future.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

A new development in the law of unintended consequences. Car companies have tried to make gas-powered cars drive more quietly, and a lot of them do now, but there are also worries that some of the new car models are so quiet they could actually be dangerous.

Nissan and General Motors will release battery-powered cars next year that make almost no noise, but technological achievement often comes with an uncontemplated cost. The Washington Post reports this week that the federal government is concerned about the practical effect of all that silence on the roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration worries that cyclists and pedestrians, especially people who are visually impaired, could be at risk. They've been trained to rely on the sounds of approaching traffic to tell them when it's safe to cross the street.

So some manufacturers are searching for new ways to put sound into their vehicle for safety's sake. Nissan is testing out chimes or whistling melodies, but you know, sounds are what we do for a living. Why not alert pedestrians with this sound?

(Soundbite of song, "YMCA")

THE VILLAGE PEOPLE (Music Group): It's fun to stay at the YMCA…

(Soundbite of train whistle)

(Soundbite of horses)

SIMON: That ought to keep people out of the crosswalks.

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