Chevy Volt's UFO noise to be driver-controllable

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Awards: Best of Black Friday

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You wouldn’t think quieter cars would be a problem, but then again, you’re probably not blind. Hybrids and electrics make so little noise that they pose a serious risk to blind people, who often use the sound of a car passing to determine whether it’s safe to cross the road. Nissan’s Leaf, it was announced, will make a “beautiful and futuristic” noise at low speeds so that unaware pedestrians won’t get run down.

Good, but any noise, however beautiful, may become a bother if you hear it all the damn time. So Chevy has stated that its noise, “a series of low horn audio signals,” will be driver-controlled. I have to say, I’m glad of that, because “a series of low horn audio signals” sounds like it’d really bug me. You’ll be able to turn it on and off like any other safety features, like high beams and hazard lights.

I wonder if in the future of car marketing there will be major competition between brand noises — if they’re all quiet, there’s no distinctive engine note, but they still have control over how the sucker sounds. I can just picture it now: “Yeah, the Toyota gets 50 more miles per charge, but have you heard the sweet woom-woom noise the new Fords make?” Or maybe you’ll be able to buy “roll tones.” Okay, I’m a genius. I’m patenting that.

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