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Pay per Honk

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On: Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 3:23PM | By: Karen Cook


Pay per Honk

I listen to NPR in my car when I’m not listening to my own play lists. If that makes me old, so be it. It helps me keep in touch with the world, though, since I don’t watch the news. I would rather hear bad news than see it.

Recently, there was an interesting story from India concerning their rampant noise pollution. Most of it comes from drivers who incessantly honk their horns for any little reason or for no reason at all. Taxi drivers are by far the worst offenders. Maybe because they spend all day in their cars, but there it is.

The reporter lives in India and is a native of the country. She stated that when she gets in a cab she informs the driver that she will ride with him only if he doesn’t honk. Most of the time the driver concedes since the fare is apparently more important than whatever satisfaction comes from honking. Still, she has faced several instances where she was asked to leave the cab.

Along with our reporter, Jayraj Salgaonkar has had enough. Unlike our reporter though, he is in a position to do something about it. Working with students from IIT (Indian Institutes of Technology) he has fashioned a meter to measure how much honking a driver actually does.

It’s name is “Oren” and it’s about the size of a small WiFi modem housed in a white plastic box. (See picture above.) It is equipped with a numerical keypad and a meter. The system works very simply. It measures the amount of electricity the horn draws from the battery.

Installing these in taxi cabs would make it possible not only to see how much honking is being done, it will also charge the driver for doing it. Every time the horn is honked, it costs money. The longer the horn is pressed, the more rapidly the meter goes up and the more money it costs.

The driver has the option to buy tickets which give him a certain amount of “free” honking time. Presumably this would be used for emergencies when the horn is really necessary. Using the horn so frequently seriously reduces its effectiveness as people learn to “tune it out”. This can lead to the sound being ignored in a serious situation.

Interestingly, the drivers in Mumbai, which has the highest level of noise pollution caused by honking, are on board to test this device. If it works there, the politicians could vote to have the meter installed in all cars in the hopes of reducing the noise significantly.

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