Silence is deadly
Delivering low maintenance and low fuel costs, zero emissions and green deity-status, electric cars seem to herald the future of the automobile. But that’s not to say they’re perfect. Without a combustion engine, they can actually be too quiet; it takes a pedestrian 40% longer to notice their presence versus a “normal” car. So, to all the electric car owners out there, if you’re silently speeding along, doing your bit for the environment, please also remember that you pose double the threat to a pedestrian than a normal car. Sorry to burst your green bubble.
But help is at hand. It comes in the unlikely form of Steve Levine, producer of The Beach Boys, Culture Cub and, perfectly, Motorhead. He has been hired by HALOsonic, partners with Lotus, to compose an artificial ‘soundscape’, to be
played from speakers at the rear of the EV.
HALOsonic describe their work as ‘at its best, like a film soundtrack: you create a ‘mood’ for the car.’ So it’s not all about safety; people have always wanted an impressive soundtrack to their personal transport experience. Older generations might remember kids in the 1950’s attaching a folded cigarette box to the brake calliper of their bike, replicating the noise of a mini-scooter engine as it drummed against the spokes.
From the ‘brum brum’ of traditional cars to sci-fi Star Wars style noises, the question of noise limits for road vehicles has been hotly debated in the House of Commons – perhaps supporting auto soundscapes could be a great little project for Nick Clegg? And outside of politics, there’s even talk of downloadable, bespoke ‘soundscapes’ of huge variety.
Will car sounds fall to the same sonic melange as mobile ringtones? I’d opt for a clockwork Noddy-car noise, with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana as I put my foot down. In fact, I hope government legislation will lay some sensible perimeters, as I think the sound of this could wear a little thin during M25 rush hour.