The Toyota Prius is about to get a speaker system in Japan designed to alert pedestrians that the car, which can run near silently, is on the move.
The 12,600 yen (£96) device, which is mounted under the bonnet, emits a soft whirring that is "barely audible" in a noisy street, but loud enough in quieter roads to alert pedestrians -- particularly the blind, young or incredibly stupid -- that they should look left and right before crossing the road. It begins whirring from the moment the car is switched on, though it can be deactivated with a switch inside the cabin.
Toyota says the gadget has been released following Japanese government guidelines designed to address the dangers of silent cars. Japan's narrow, crowded streets have a high number of pedestrian deaths compared to many other nations, and with a million or so Priuses silently roaming the roads, there are fears that lives could be lost.
Currently, Toyota has no plans to release the speaker system outside of Japan, but says it is keeping its options open pending government regulations, or a sudden spate of Prius-related deaths.
This isn't the first time an auto-maker has attempted to make a silent car noisier. Back in June 2009 we shot some video of the Smart Brabus Electric Drive, which came with a noise generator that could either imitate the noise of an internal combustion engine or a space ship. Brabus also has an optional sound module for its modified Tesla Roadster, which imitates the noise of a high-performance sports car.
What do you guys reckon? Should hybrid cars come with sound generators? Or should we be relying on more sophisticated pedestrian detection systems that stop cars automatically before a crash? Or should pedestrians and drivers just be a little more careful when they're out on the road? Let us know what you think in the comments below.