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GM Volt’s Alert System: It Won’t Sound Like Blade Runner

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Electric vehicles may be efficient, but they can be dangerous, too. Without a conventional gasoline-powered engine, EVs run almost silently–and that’s bad news for the blind and anyone else who happens to be distracted when a car comes barreling at them. Nissan decided to solve the problem by giving its upcoming Leaf EV a Blade Runner-like sound, and now GM and Chevrolet are teaming up with the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) to identify appropriate noises for EVs.

Most recently, members of the NFB were given a demonstration of the pre-production Chevy Volt’s pedestrian alert system. It’s not too annoying and seems to do the job, but it’s no Blade Runner buzzing noise, either. Even if the Volt’s beeping noise becomes standard for a while, car owners might one day have the chance to choose their own EV alert noises.

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We should be careful, though–if cars use too many different noises, their alert systems could ultimately fail. After all, we can recognize the sound of an oncoming car precisely because it sounds like every other oncoming car in existence. If one car blasts the sound of a barking dog, one broadcasts a Blade Runner noise, and another pumps a Lady Gaga soundbyte, we’re all screwed.

[GM]

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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