by Nathalie Hollede
The safety of our planet walks hand-in-hand with our own. New regulations for manufacturers to create sound for electric cars have been mandated; but until 2019, our behaviour in traffic may have to change.
Since President Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, we may be looking at a dystopian future, especially in terms of lowering our CO2 emissions – that is, if the rest of the world leaders follow his example. With the new safety goals for electric cars, together with their exponentially rising popularity, the statistics tell us there is still hope.
Last year, electric car purchases passed the two million mark worldwide, when in 2005 there were only a few hundreds. The cars are seen as one of the major environmental saviours against the increase of global warming and green house gasses, but they do come with dangers. We may not have flying, time-travelling cars yet like Michael J Fox did in Back to the Future in year 2012, but electrical cars are a giant step for mankind. With new features like auto-steering and auto-parking, you would think the lifestyle of the future is a literal laissez-faire. However, for inattentive pedestrians and cyclists, the self-driving, silent robot cars pose a danger, and could require a huge paradigm shift.
According to our psychology, we are conditioned to react upon our surroundings in the ways that will keep us safe. So naturally, as we are conditioned to listen for danger, and now that electric cars are becoming the vehicle of choice in many households across the globe, manufacturers must consider new safety precautions. Since pedestrians and even cyclists are commonly seen holding their phones in one hand and steering themselves forward with the other limbs available to them, their safety depends very much on senses other than seeing, mostly: our hearing.
We rely on the sound of cars as an indication of their location and approximation to us. The noise they make has become more than just a noise, it is a warning to pedestrians, cyclists, and fellow drivers. Our conditioning to the sound of conventional cars has habituated us, leading us to behave in careless ways, expecting no harm to come to us. Due to the invention of electric cars, or until a sound is created, there may be accidents; but because scientists have already caught on to the issue before major media has declared it an abomination, there is hope that only positive lessons will come from saving the planet little by little, with electrical cars at the head of the game.
For a very long time the ultimate mark of luxury for a high-end car was a low decibel output. Now, with the rapidly growing market for electric vehicles which make virtually no detectable noise, a change in traffic safety regulations, and ultimately in our conditioned behaviour in traffic, is on the cards. Recently, manufacturers and politicians have become aware of the safety issues that could occur as a result of the deathly silence of electric/hybrid cars, and are beginning to investigate how to create sounds that will characterise the electric car. Under the presidency of Barack Obama, all electric car manufacturers were given an ultimatum: to create a signature sound for their cars by September 1 2019, or stop all production.
Despite President Trump having expressed his disbelief in the global warming theory, and withdrawn the US from the Paris Agreement which mandated this requirement, new sound(s) are being developed – with Tesla leading the movement. We may have to say goodbye to the white noise we depend on to fall asleep at night, and the engine and honking horns we rely on to warn us of an approaching car. What a bittersweet utopian vision. What with customisable ring tones, why not customisable honk-tunes? On behalf of Brig, a few suggestions for horn sounds may be fired away to Tesla manufacturers, including: the Ice Cream Truck Song, The Macarena, Disco Star Wars, or the Batman Theme Song (“Nananananannana”). I recommend watching this video, to prepare for the reality of this future:
The rest of the world still has a chance to make a change without the support of “the greatest nation”, and we as citizens certainly hold a responsibility towards making the shift. The importance of electricity over non-renewable energy to the future of our planet should make the shift a morally weighted one, and hopefully the nations will continue to work for the improved safety of electrical cars. Considering that the future of electric cars is looking quite promising according to the statistics, pedestrians and cyclists need to be aware – stalking your ex on Instagram has to become an activity for the sheets, not the streets; at least until we habituate ourselves to the change that electric cars will bring. If we can favour our environment over minor inconveniences such as changing our attitudes to traffic safety, the future is looking to be a less stressful one with less noise, and (finally) flying cars, just like Back to the Future promised.
Here is an infographic on EV statistics: