Japan may add noise to quiet hybrid cars for safety

July 3, 2009
A customer admires a Honda Motor's hybrid vehicle at a showroom in Tokyo. Japan's near-silent hybrid cars have been called dangerous by the vision-impaired and some users, prompting a government review on whether to add a noise-making device, according to an official.

Japan's near-silent hybrid cars have been called dangerous by the vision-impaired and some users, prompting a government review on whether to add a noise-making device, according to an official.

The petrol-electric vehicles, which in recent months have become the country's top-selling autos, hum along almost soundlessly when they are switched from fuel to battery mode.

"We have received opinions from automobile users and vision-impaired people that they feel hybrid vehicles are dangerous," a transport ministry official said.

"Blind people depend on sounds when they walk, but there are no engine sounds from when running at low speed" and on the electric motor, he said.

The ministry has launched a panel of scholars, vision-impaired groups, consumers, police and the to discuss the matter.

"They decided to consider introducing a sound-making function" in petrol-electric hybrids when the 13-member panel held its first meeting Thursday, the official said.

They have not decided on what kind of sound should be used, only that it should induce a response of caution, he said.

"On the other hand, we should pay attention to residents (along roads) as hybrids are excellent in reducing noise," the official added.

The panel is expected to draw up a report by the end of the year. Its proposal will be discussed at the ministry's committee on automobile safety before it could be drafted into legislation.

launched the world's most popular hybrid, the Prius, in 1997.

A cheaper, revamped , rolled out in Japan in late May, has been a huge hit, drawing orders for 200,000 units, according to Toyota. It recently became the best-selling car in Japan's domestic market.

(c) 2009 AFP

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5 / 5 (4) Jul 03, 2009
Over 500,000 Prius have been sold in the USA since 2001 and looking at the fatality accident reporting system (FARS) data, we found only 11, Prius-pedestrian fatalities. Based upon the expected number of miles per vehicle per year, this rate is no different from what ordinary gas-only vehicles. Notice that none of the proponents bring credible accident data because they can't find any either.

The real risk is by focusing on just 'noise makers,' effective accident prevention systems such as radar and camera based systems are being ignored. These systems work not only for hybrids but all vehicles to reduce not only vehicle-pedestrian accidents but vehicle-vehicle accidents.

This effort seeks to legislate the least effective solution for a very narrow group, 5 blind fatalities out of 4,700 pedestrian fatalities per year, less 0.1%. There comes a time when sensible people need to spend time and resources on what works for everyone.

The USA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) looked at this problem June 23, 2008 and held a hearing. The opposition research is available from the record found at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for NHTSA-2008-0108-0020. The supporting legislation, H.R. 734 and S. 841 needs to be stopped.

Bob Wilson, Huntsville AL
4 / 5 (1) Jul 03, 2009
Good work BW: Whatcha wanna bet our future cars are going to play downloadable tones for a fee just like your cell phone! lol. If that happens, I've finding a cave somewhere as if I don't, I'll die a premature death from terminal annoyance.
2.5 / 5 (2) Jul 03, 2009
Why bother with a crappy built in system when you can install a massive sound system in the boot hooked up to a couple of cats and achieve over 140db or enough power to project your soundz over 2 km on a still day.

Adding a simple low range (20 meters) non intrusive bass frequency pulse for sight impaired will be a lot easier on the ears than most car engines. It may even have the added side effect of making us all feel happy as bass frequencies are proven to increase theta(?) brainwave activity that enhances the feeling of happiness and relaxation in most people. Hence the reliance of deep bass frequencies in all modern pop and dance music.
not rated yet Jul 05, 2009
Didn't RollsRoyce face this problem ? IIRC, they fitted a louder clock...

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