Toyota has begun offering a speaker system to customers in Japan that makes a whirring sound similar in volume to a regular car engine that will alert pedestrians of your quiet car's presence. The device is available for the most recent generation Prius and will be offered for any new hybrids from Toyota going forward. Drivers can buy the system for about the equivalent of $150.
The speaker was designed to protect pedestrians, especially blind pedestrians, who may not hear the car when it's traveling at low speeds and only running on the electric motor. The device will turn on every time the car starts, but can be turned off with a switch.
The U.S. auto safety agency found that hybrids were twice as likely to be involved in a pedestrian accident at low speeds than cars with conventional engines.
The Prius has been the top selling car in Japan for over a year. The popularity of the quiet hybrid vehicles led to a Japanese government report on the danger of silent cars and new guidelines that Toyota followed when developing the speaker system.
If quiet cars really are a hazard to pedestrians, it makes sense that this would be an added feature on hybrid or all-electric vehicles, so it seems strange that Toyota is offering it as a voluntary, paid option instead of just making it a standard feature.
written by Bob Wilson, September 10, 2010
written by Sam Vilain, September 16, 2010
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