Prius gets sound option to protect pedestrians

Aug 24, 2010 By YURI KAGEYAMA , AP Business Writer
In this July 6, 2010 file photo, Prius hybrid vehicles are displayed at Toyota Motor Corp.'s showroom in Tokyo. Toyota's Prius is becoming a little less quiet with a new electronic humming device that is the automaker's answer to complaints that pedestrians can't hear the top-selling car approaching. The 12,600 yen ($148) speaker system that goes under the hood of the third-generation Prius sets off a whirring sound designed to be about the same noise level as a regular car engine so that it isn't annoying, Toyota said Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, File)

(AP) -- Toyota's Prius hybrid is becoming a little less quiet with a new electronic humming device that is the automaker's answer to complaints that pedestrians can't hear the top-selling car approaching.

The 12,600 yen ($148) speaker system that goes under the hood of the third-generation Prius sets off a whirring sound designed to be about the same noise level as a regular car engine so that it isn't annoying, Motor Corp. said Tuesday.

It goes on sale Aug. 30 in , and owners pay extra for installation charges. Its use is voluntary.

Overseas sales plans are still undecided, but Toyota is studying regulations and considering offering it in the U.S. and other markets, said spokeswoman Monika Saito.

The gasoline-electric hybrid gets good mileage but is also quiet because it runs as an electric car much of the time. That advantage has drawn complaints that pedestrians, the blind in particular, are at greater risk of being hit by the car, especially at low speeds.

The U.S. government's auto safety agency found in a research report last year that hybrids are twice as likely to be involved in pedestrian crashes at low speeds compared with cars with conventional engines.

Toyota, which also makes the Camry sedan and Lexus luxury models, said it plans versions of the device for other hybrid models, plug-ins, electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles.

Pedestrian deaths compared to overall traffic fatalities are higher in Japan than in the U.S. and many other nations because of Japan's narrow and crisscrossing crowded streets. Japan is also a rapidly aging society, making audible cars critical.

Toyota said the device is based on guidelines addressing the dangers of silent cars, including hybrids, issued in January by the Japanese government.

Other automakers, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., are also working on countermeasures to make quiet ecological cars safer.

The Prius device's humming is so soft it is barely audible in a noisy street but can be a lifesaver in quieter environments. It can be turned off with a switch but goes on automatically every time the car starts.

The Prius has been the top-selling in Japan for the past 15 months straight, benefiting from incentives designed to boost sales of green cars.

Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, has sold nearly 337,000 third-generation Prius cars in Japan. It has sold more than 2.68 million hybrids around the world so far, a million of them in Japan.

Explore further: Tricorder XPRIZE: 10 teams advance in global competition to develop consumer-focused diagnostic device

More information: Video demonstration of the device: http://www2.toyota.co.jp/en/news/10/08/0824.html

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Jimbaloid
not rated yet Aug 24, 2010
I've long thought that a similar system should be added to mobility scooters.
ClickHere
not rated yet Aug 24, 2010
Why bother. My 2001 Peugeot 306 HDi (turbo diesel) gets 6.4L/100k. 2009 Prius claims 4.7L/100 km. 2001 306 was the best handling car in it's class, and will never need replacement batteries.
jtdrexel
2.5 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2010
Look to your left and then to your right when you cross the street. If one cannot do this much, then stay home or catch a cab. Idiots!
barakn
4 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2010
the third-generation Prius sets off a whirring sound designed to be about the same noise level as a regular car engine so that it isn't annoying

An oxymoron if I ever heard one. Regular car engine noise is annoying.
HeloMenelo
2 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2010
"Why bother. My 2001 Peugeot 306 HDi (turbo diesel) gets 6.4L/100k. 2009 Prius claims 4.7L/100 km. 2001 306 was the best handling car in it's class, and will never need replacement batteries."

Bother because this vehicle will not run the entire 100 km on fossil fuels for one.

For two this car paves the way for a mass produced fully electric vehicle in which at that time, the benefits of an electric vehicle will outshine old i.c.e. technology a million to one, especially when batteries become less expensive and give better performance and longer duration.

And that technology is being researched and developed as we speak.
mark0101
4.7 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2010
I find regular car engine noise very annoying. Making electric cars louder is ridiculous. If all cars were quiet, then people would be more careful when crossing the street.
rgwalther
1 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2010
As ridiculous as this idea is, I certainly hope that it can be turned off when not needed. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Silence is golden.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2010
Look to your left and then to your right when you cross the street. If one cannot do this much, then stay home or catch a cab. Idiots!

How about blind people?

Who's the idiot?
Bob_Kob
1 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2010
An oxymoron if I ever heard one. Regular car engine noise is annoying.


Well engine noise is annoying, not exactly the loudness of it. I'd imagine these cars playing the stereotypical futuristic hovercraft noise it would be epic (think starwars).
Ravenrant
5 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2010
Reminds me of an old sci-fi story I read once. It was about a guy who got stranded on a planet with a prototype disintegrator. It turned out that it was near useless because it was silent and had too long a range. It didn't scare the local wildlife and he accidentally sliced up his ship stranding himself. When he was rescued he was using it as a hammer. He suggested they make it go bang when it was shot.
Musashi
2 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2010
Look to your left and then to your right when you cross the street. If one cannot do this much, then stay home or catch a cab. Idiots!

How about blind people?

Who's the idiot?


I very much doubt blind people cross streets based on the lack of automobile sound alone. I think a combination of cues, with added emphasis on other pedestrians, stopping at the edge or starting to walk is what makes the difference. I've yet to see a blind person carelessly cross a street that isn't populated to some degree. I very much doubt silent cars will translate in blind people accidents.
Musashi
5 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2010
Anyhoo, noise bumps before crosswalks would solve the matter.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2010
I very much doubt silent cars will translate in blind people accidents.
No but silent cars and bad drivers, who don't pay attention, will cause accidents regardless of whether the pedestrian is blind or otherwise.
Newbeak
not rated yet Aug 29, 2010
How about blind people using a sensory substitution device that allows them to "see" objects around them? Trials show the brain adapts to this system with amazing speed.The developers hope to commercialize the device soon: http://vision.wic...hnology/
VOR
not rated yet Sep 01, 2010
this is an opportunity for creativity and self-expression. With some tinkering, the car could sound like anything you can imagine. would be best
make it sound kinda like some real or likely- sounding imagined ground vehicle though.
How about a landspeeder from Star Wars? lol