Worries About The Dangerous Sound Of Silence

A recent article by Bloomberg News discussed the odd task of car companies around the world who are trying to make some of their vehicles noisier. Typically most engineers spend time reducing noise, making engines hum more quietly or making cabins seem nearly silent. Nowadays, sound engineers at companies like Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and others are working on adding artificial noise to their lines of deadly silent electric cars.

In the case of Mercedes-Benz, engineers are working to make the new e-Smart car emit a kind of purring noise, a high-pitched sound that befits the vehicle’s small size. In top of the line AMG convertibles, Mercedes is creating deeper, huskier notes to reflect the car’s price and power. Nissan’s Leaf comes with its own artificial sound, a kind of high-pitched whirring that the automaker purposely created.

So, why the fake noise? Because without it pedestrians and others are at much greater risk of injury. Everyone alive today grew up with the unmistakable sound of combustion engines. People are used to associating certain noises with cars and are warned of their presence when they hear the noise. Electric cars are totally silent; something that car companies and safety regulators have come to realize presents a serious danger.

At low speeds, electric cars emit almost no discernible sounds, which makes them a potentially deadly threat to bicyclists and those on foot who are used to reacting to engine noise. The hope is that fake motor noise could save lives and avoid an increase in pedestrian accidents associated with electric vehicles. That’s why companies like Renault and Mercedes-Benz are making their engine noises mandatory, refusing to allow customers to shut off the noise even if they want to.

Advocates for the blind and others with visual impairments say they are at special risk of injury due to the silent electric cars that can whiz by on neighborhood streets without a sound. Below 19 miles per hour, experts say electric vehicles are essentially silent. Above that speed, tire and wind noise begins to appear which make the cars detectable even by those with visual impairment.

Though some automakers are happy to add the noise at slow speeds to avoid potential liability in the case of an accident, others have said that fake sounds would undercut one of the prime selling features of electric cars: their silence. As a result, BMW has said that it will only add synthetic sound to its electric cars in cities where the law requires it. VW says that it is also not planning to add noise to its line of fully electric vehicles unless the law mandates it. Currently, regulators in the United States and Europe are debating measures requiring the addition of artificial sounds in electric vehicles.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident or truck wreck because of the carelessness of another driver, call the personal injury attorneys at Pope McGlamry P.C. today to schedule a free consultation.