Lotus Device Makes Fake Noise for Hybrids

Lotus, the British performance carmaker, has introduced a new device that makes hybrid cars louder. Since hybrid cars first hit the market, concerns have been raised about the potential risk to blind pedestrians—as well as children and cyclists—who may not hear hybrids, which can be very quiet. Citizen organizations, such as the National Federation of the Blind, have pushed for legislation to address the issue.

Lotus engineers believe they have a solution. The new system, dubbed “Safe and Sound,” was designed to generate artificial noise mimicking a gas-powered combustion engine. It utilizes an external waterproof speaker positioned next to the car’s radiator which emits fake engine noise during electric-only operation. The sound also changes frequencies based on the car’s speed to simulate common engines. And because the speaker faces to the front, the noise is virtually inaudible to occupants of the vehicle. Lotus used the Toyota Prius to demonstrate the device.

“Our advanced external sound synthesis technology increases pedestrian safety, while retaining the car’s environmental benefits,” said Mike Kimberly, chief executive officer of Group Lotus, in a company press release. “We hope that legislators introduce minimum noise requirements for vehicles to encourage the adoption of technologies such as ours.” There is no indication when Lotus might bring its technology to market, or how much it would cost.

Earlier this year, Lotus created a new research group solely for developing electric and hybrid technology—but has not announced production plans for its own hybrid vehicle.

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  • Shines

    I hope Lotus isn’t charging more than $20.00 for this “ingenious” device. You could simply hook up an extra waterproof speaker to the cars music system and then the blind could hear you rockin an a rollin towards them. ;-D

  • steved28

    If they put that in my car, the speaker wires would be cut in about 10 seconds. Then I could go to jail for not making enough noise. I would take my story to the talk show circuit, and make a million.

  • Neil

    The world already has too much noise pollution. The last thing we need is to artificially create more noise. UGH!

  • Shines

    Or, we could go the other way. Add extra speakers near the exhaust and a “Rev” button on the dash… Pull up to a rice rocket or muscle car at the stop light in your hybrid and “Rev” the engine like you want to drag… Vroooom!! Vrooomm!
    OMG what am I suggesting!?!

  • Collin Burnell

    You know, I thought this whole ‘too quiet’ thing was nuts at first but I have seen it ‘first hand’. Every once in a while a pedestrian will be oblivious that I am approaching and I have been surprised at how long it can take for them to realize I am there. This may be the simple solution.

  • anon Imus

    Kinda like fitting a cat with a bell collar so he can’t sneak up on birds.

    Collin Burnell, you failed to mention: when you approach the oblivious, are you in your car or also on foot? I think we all should wear a cowbell everywhere we go. Legislators, get working on that.

    I gotta have more cowbell

  • VaPrius

    This is stupid. Simply more hybrid hate. These people will do ANYTHING to make hybrids look silly. You think the Prius gets ridiculed now, just wait until the first one with the “fake engine” noise hits the street. Especially if it has a Lotus engine noisemaker!! I can hear the late night comedians now: “Apparently, to loose their wimpy image they thought it’d be a good idea to have an optional engine noise feature. You have the Hummer, the Lotus, the Harley-Davidson, or the ice cream truck!”

    Yeah right. In 100 years, we are going to be driving cars based on electric drive, hydrogen, or what ever and they are still going to be making a vroom-vroom sound. Come on, this isn’t even rational.

  • Boom Boom

    My solution is just to drive with the windows down playing Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” really loud. All the blind folks go running for the hills. Or I pull tin cans behind my car and everywhere I go it sounds like someone just got married!

    Definitely gotta have more cowbell.

    Adding noise to cars. A solution looking for a problem.

  • Old Man Crowder

    What happened to the good, old playing card in the spokes trick, just like we used to have on our bikes?

    And speaking of which, how is it that we’ve gone so long without legislation to govern bicycles — the ‘other’ silent killer on the streets??

  • Boom Boom

    I hear ya, Crowder. My bike has killed more innocent pedestrians than all the hybrids combined….. which by the way is still holding steady at ZERO.

    The disc brakes get in the way of the playing cards, so that doesn’t work. But on my bike, I’ve got a bell to warn folks, so maybe I should get a bell on my hybrid!!!…. oh, wait, it already has a horn. Thanks, Honda for thinking ahead.

  • RandalH

    From even a small distance, most modern cars are nearly silent when running unless they have been specifically designed or altered to sound sporty. Most of the noise a car makes at speed is either wind noise or road noise due to tire contact with the road surface. I can imagine that a car like the Prius, which is designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, would produce less wind noise, but tire noise is still present. If a blind person is standing on the corner listening for an approaching car, I would be willing to bet they are hearing non-engine noise. The one place this might be different is if a car is making a right-hand turn, and thus nearly stops prior to accelerating after the turn. At that point, engine noise might be dominant. However, there has to be a more reliable way to indicate a car is near than merely relying on it making some specific noise.

  • Bryce

    Zeppelin played with windows down.

    Problem solved.

  • Curt

    If a Prius is too quiet, what about bicyclists? Are we going to add noise to them also?

  • Old Man Crowder

    Atta boy, Curt. Way to follow along!

  • Bryce

    Well, bicyclists don’t weigh 3500 lbs. Nor do they usually travel faster than 25 mph.

  • Shines

    I must sadly report the first hybrid pedestrian death…
    I was riding my electric bicycle to work this morning and a squirrel ran under it and hit his head on my pedal. “Cathunk” is was over in an instant. There was nowhere for me to turn – Actually I was coasting down an empty residential street and the squirrel saw me. If I didn’t know how stupid squirrels are I’d swear he did it on purpose (You see the Gieco Insurance commercial? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TL1uFjSbvnA) – ran right under my tire. I kinda doubt if I made any noise it would have been any different…
    now I’m going to have nightmares ;-b

  • Bryce

    A chipmunk crossed the street and then started running down the road and we drove over him. I hope we didn’t hit him. We weren’t driving a hybrid, I just think that the creature didn’t know what to do. Animals reactions are a little different from human reactions.

  • Boom Boom

    My question for Bryce and Shines is “Was the squirrel/chipmunk blind?” Because that is what were talking about here…..

    Maybe to save sighted squirrels and chipmunks from untimely deaths, we need to mandate painting cars a certain color which makes them more visible to rodents. And since Bryce hit the chipmunk (or almost..) with a non-hybrid car, clearly we need to paint those cars the same color to help rodents see and avoid cars.

    I think that Shines gets extra points for kicking the squirrel in the head with a pedal. That is totally ninja, man. Next one gets it in the spokes and ends up in four pieces. Booyashaka.

  • Old Man Crowder

    HAHAHAAAA!!! Nice one, Boom Boom!

    Although, aren’t animals colour blind? If that’s the case, then I guess we’re stuck with putting artificial predator sounds on the bikes.

  • Bryce

    I was just saying, artificial noises might be a little pointless.


    We have the answer for the problem that visually impaired pedestrians have with hybrid and electric cars. P.A.S.S. allows the car to stay quiet, until a visually impaired pedestrian activates the system. The car then sounds a tone that the pedestrian can track. It also alerts the driver to the fact that there is someone in the area who can’t see him and needs to hear him.


    For investor opportunities Email us at Goran@cprracing.com

  • Ender

    They should also add a fire hose on the side of every car, just in case Helen Keller decides to take a stroll across the interstate. Drivers can just press a button, activating the pedestrian washing warning.

  • Honda owner

    I was a 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid owner. I can attest to the fact that hybrids are too quiet. Two weeks ago, I hit a pedestrian. He didnt make it. I was traveling at 50 mph at 8 pm. He with some friends, were crossing a unlit two lane hiway, diagonally. when you add not looking to not hearing, very bad combination. Some one does need to make something, maybe along the lines of the things we use to alert deer .If he could have heard me…he would still be alive. Another point ide like to add, the sensors for the front airbag ,are behind the front bumper, in this accident, the ped did not make contact with the front bumper, but with the license plate, then the hood, the windsheild and caved in the roof. and ..no air bag deployment. Thats a flaw that can cost a life. I thank God everyday that I didnt die that night. The car sustained major damage, more than enough to total it. Thankfully, my dog or I were not hurt.