Hear’s a hybrid safety solution
ANYONE who has driven a hybrid car knows the potential dangers of car parks. It has nothing to do with the cars themselves, but their low-speed electric operation and a total lack of noise. Something like a Honda Civic hybrid (right) has none of the start-up sounds most people expect from a car, and there is no revving as you get moving. So there is now warning when a hybrid is moving, and that can come as a shock for someone pushing a trolley into a line of parked cars at the supermarket. I have had a couple of near misses with people who have stepped straight into the path of a hybrid car, and I’ve seen other drivers forced to swerve around someone who had no idea they were coming. But Lotus Engineering has a potential solution: an artificial nose generator under the name Safe and Sound. Lotus is demonstrating the system on a standard Toyota Prius, and says it retains its environmentally conscious design without the potential risk to pedestrians and cyclists. It is part of a suite of active noise technologies that includes Active Road Noise Cancellation, to make car cabins quieter. The Safe and Sound system uses conventional engine noise played through a waterproof loudspeaker alongside the radiator. It only operates when the hybrid is running as an electric vehicle. ‘‘Blind and partially sighted people use the noise of oncoming traffic as a cue for when it is safe to cross a road. If a quiet hybrid electric vehicle is approaching they will no longer have this cue and are immediately put at risk,’’ a guide dog spokesman says.