Electric cars are quiet like ninjas and ten times as deadly. But mainly, just superquiet. This study found that people can generally hear conventional cars from 28 feet away, but can only detect hybrid cars in battery mode at 7 feet—or one second—away. To prevent happy-go-lucky new hybrid owners from indiscriminately crushing cyclists and passersby, some models are now being outfitted with artificial motor noises to alert people of their presence.
Mechanical noises aren’t the only sounds available for download and application. “Cartones” are customizable sounds you can purchase for your eco-ride to let people know something heavy is heading their way. Some legal kinks—like debate over whether the sound should be playing all the time—still need to be ironed out before they can be made available to the public. Congress is currently working on a Pedestrian Safety Act that would set a minimum and maximum noise level for all motor vehicles.
We look forward to having a car that plays nothing but William Shatner covers (just watch the video below, ok? You won't be sorry).