Electric car sounds warning

Washington Post / June 13, 2010

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It was quiet. Maybe too quiet.

With advocates for pedestrians and the blind warning that hybrid and electric cars could catch strollers unaware, the designers of the Nissan Leaf have added sound effects to the otherwise nearly silent vehicle.

After exploring a hundred sounds that ranged from chimes to motorlike to futuristic, the company settled on a soft whine that fluctuates in intensity with the car’s speed.

When backing up, the car makes a clanging sound.

Nissan says it worked with advocates for the blind, a Hollywood sound design company, and acoustic psychologists in creating its system of audible alerts.

The Leaf is scheduled to go on sale in part of the United States in December.

Nissan added the artificial noise as lawmakers and regulators study whether auto manufacturers should be required to install warning sounds in their vehicles to alert pedestrians.