Automotive

Scientists testing driving noises for EVs

Scientists testing driving noi...
ELVIN the EV is equipped with a variety of driving noises
ELVIN the EV is equipped with a variety of driving noises
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ELVIN the EV is equipped with a variety of driving noises
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ELVIN the EV is equipped with a variety of driving noises
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Electric vehicles are set to become a common sight on our roads, but one potential problem needs to be addressed – their lack of engine sound. In a perfect world, of course, pedestrians would always look both ways before crossing the street, and cyclists would always shoulder-check before turning, but this isn’t a perfect world. There are also blind people to consider, who must rely on the sound of oncoming vehicles (or lack of it) to know when it’s safe to cross the road. Toyota has already announced an onboard audio alert system for the Prius, but now researchers at the University of Warwick are experimenting with sounds that could be applied to all EVs – and you could help them.

ELVIN is a little green electric van, used to patrol U Warwick’s parking lots. It has been outfitted with an audio system, programmed to make a variety of noises as it’s driven around. The research team will be asking people who see and hear ELVIN (Electric Vehicle with Interactive Noise) to tell them not only how effective the noises are as a warning, but also how annoying.

“Electric Vehicles are very quiet externally and internally, which makes them a potential low-speed safety risk to pedestrians,” said lead researcher Professor Paul Jennings. “Sound not only alerts people to the presence and direction of a vehicle, it also indicates the type of vehicle – for instance a bus – and whether it is stopping or accelerating.”

“The obvious solution is to artificially add appropriate sounds, but which sounds? At the same time, we don’t wish to lose the potential benefits of reduced annoyance from traffic noise.”

The public had a chance to check out ELVIN yesterday at the Warwick campus, but if you missed it you’re still in luck. Jennings and company have set up on online interactive evaluation, that allows people worldwide to let them know what they think of the little van’s noises.

The options, we'd have to say, are a little unadventurous given the opportunity to really think outside the box that the coming era of EVs affords us, but it's bound to be a contentious topic. If you think you have the solution, we'd love to hear your thoughts.

24 comments
Neil
Oh my. Of all the problems to spend research time on. I\'m sorry to be so cynical. Worrying about people being run over by EVs is like worrying about Canadian spy networks.
Mr Stiffy
I want the \"Cow Bell\" option.
Ronnie
IDIOT RESEARCH. Trains..... must have a man walking in front of it with a red flag! Remember that!
So now we have to create artificial noise pollution because some idiot can think of 10 reasons how they can get run over. Atattch a smog machine so we can have the stink as well. It\'s all to much for the human unit. Anyroad Gizma the best little email you can get.
justme70
The simple answer is to just force the cooling fans to be on when the vehicle is traveling at less than 15mph. The fans are most of the noise you hear on a modern IC-engined vehicle at low speed, anyway.
Adding a noisemaker (which can break, and will almost certainly be \"modified\") is a terrible idea.
Jared
In the long run, whether vehicles are gas or electric, a better solution would be to generate targeted sound (for example, with a beam-forming speaker array) directed at people in or moving toward the space that the vehicle is about to occupy. For example, suppose the vehicle is approaching a crosswalk and is too close to stop before the crosswalk. Using on-board sensing (lidar, vision, etc.) the vehicle detects a person stepping into the crosswalk, and predicts a collision. Reacting in a few milliseconds, it generates a sonic \"slap\" focused right on the person\'s head. Sound, traveling at ~750mph, reaches its target quickly, giving the person a few hundred extra milliseconds to jump out of the way.
Robert Schell
As a regular commuter cyclist, I DO NOT rely on vehicle sounds. Most vehicles emit most sound from the rear and my ears are aimed to the front. I don\'t hear cars until after they pass me. In the winter, I have a hat down over my ears and hear even less. I just use a mirror to see what\'s coming. I participated in the evaluation, but I too am offended that EVs need to make artificial noise. That reduces the efficiency, for what gain?
Adam Frisoli
I like B. It sounds like the sci-fi vehicle I\'ve always dreamed of driving. I think the sound should be something between a standard combustion engine (for familiarity) and an electric hum or whir. Basically an amplified and throatier version of the sound the motors make naturally.
Simply put, it should sound like the sexiest version of the future imaginable.
berry53
It would be inspiring to read more comments from people that understand the very real hazard silent vehicles present. While I don\'t doubt that some of those commenting are very \'tuned\' to their environment and can\'t imagine not noticing an approaching vehicle, there are many who do rely on hearing, along with other senses. I drive a prius and try to be particularly vigilant about pedestrians and animals. There have been several occassions when my silent approach has been unnoticed and an accident narrowly averted.
graybar11
Several observations: In response to those who ridicule the idea of the need for some kind of noise, I am both an electric vehicle advocate and the \"victim\" of an electric sneak attack. The main place the noise is needed is at low speeds, before the tires make enough noise to be noticed. I was bumped by an EV at an electric vehicle demonstration after I stepped out in front of it in the parking lot. I was barely bumped but had the driver not stopped right away I might have been seriously hurt. My mistake, but there were no sound cues. Any noise might have helped, so I support the idea of sound generators.
Also, Robert mentioned that he does not rely on sound while riding. I am also a cyclist, and for right or wrong, use my hearing as well as mirrors to sense traffic to the rear. At highway speeds, a car makes enough tire noise to be heard quite easily from hundreds of meters away. This would apply to electrics as well. Ears should have no problem sensing sounds to the rear.
Luddite
Stick a baseball card in the spokes! Maybe people should just pay attention to their surroundings. With this logic, every electric car or motorcycle, bicycle, tricycle, person, dog, cat and squirrel should also have a noise generator permanently installed. They have a large number of electric cars and utility vehicles on the campus where I work. Other than the rate at which they\'re driven, I have not had any problem with their low noise level.