• 07.26.11

What Sound Should Electric Cars Make?

To help prevent pedestrian accidents, otherwise silent electric cars must emit a noise while they drive. What noise? It’s up to carmakers. Ford has presented us with some potential options. Behold, the sweet, sweet music of the Spaceship engine.

Ford EV

One of the benefits of electric cars–besides not using any gas–is that they are basically silent, clearing up a lot of the noise pollution inherent in driving giant hulks of metal around everywhere. But there is a problem: blind people use the sound of cars as a warning to not walk into streets. The roar of traffic acts as a safety cue to others, as well: People wearing headphones, little kids, the hard of hearing, smartphone addicts, or simply those not paying attention. When cars are silent, this warning system is gone, and it’s a lot easier to accidentally get mowed down. For this reason, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has mandated that all electric cars make an alert noise. What that noise is has been left up to the individual carmakers. For the new electric Ford Focus, Ford has made four potential sounds available online and are asking people to vote:


1: The Spaceship

2: The Motorboat


3: The Teleporter

4: The Fighter Jet


Are you ready for a world where cars whiz by while projecting sound effects from a Flash Gordon movie? If the government can’t mandate a standard, then be prepared for every car company to make its own, and perhaps trying to brand their cars using strange sounds. Walking down the street may soon be like wandering around inside a video game.

[Image: Ford]

Morgan Clendaniel can be reached by email or on Twitter.

About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Ideas section, formerly