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Toyota To Offer Optional Noise Maker On Prius

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On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 2:31PM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota To Offer Optional Noise Maker On Prius

There has long been a public push for some sort of noise-making system on hybrids that will warn outsiders of the cars' presence, and an NHTSA study last fall that found that hybrids run into more pedestrians and cyclists than gas vehicles only intensified that push. The National Federation of the Blind has been a strong voice in the push for noise-making technology, and has worked with GM toward pedestrian warning systems for the upcoming Chevy Volt. The two major auto industry groups: the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturer have also called for legislation that would require manufacturers to outfit hybrids and electric vehicles with some for of audible warning system.

Well, Toyota has answered the bell and announced that it will be offering a noisemaker for Prius models beginning at the end of this month. The system will initially be available only in Japan, and arises out of work with the country's Committee for the Consideration of Countermeasures Regarding Quiet Hybrid and Other Vehicles.

Toyota described the new system in a release: "“The onboard device automatically emits a synthesized sound of an electric motor when the Prius is operating as an electric vehicle at speeds up to approximately 25 km/h. The sound — aimed to alert but not annoy — rises and falls in pitch relative to the vehicle’s speed, thus helping indicate the vehicle’s proximity and movement.”

Surprisingly, Toyota will not offer the system, which will be available as a $150 option for Japan buyers, in the United States. Instead, it is working on a separate system to be offered on Prius models here.

In June, Nissan demonstrated the Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians for its Leaf model. The National Federation for the Blind opposed Nissan's plan to allow drivers to shut the system off. GM demonstrated its own system last fall. Both the Volt and Leaf go on sale later this year.

The NHTSA study, released last November, showed that hybrids were involved in crashes with pedestrians at a rate of .9 percent, well over the .6 percent rate for gasoline cars. Hybrids doubled gasoline vehicles in terms of accidents with cyclists, at a rate of .6 vs. .3 respectively. While the NHTSA recognized some inherent weaknesses within its study--the study only included data for 12 states, for instance--the findings intensified the push for automated noise systems within inherently quiet hybrid and electric vehicles.

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