back to article Silent Merc, holy e-car... What is that terrible sound?

Totally ignoring the fact that urban trotters currently take their lives into their hands by never looking up from their phones even when they do hear the growls of the good old combustion engine, electric vehicle makers have identified noiselessness as e-cars' main problem. This means, they say, that they need to think up …

  1. Alister

    I think it should be Gary Numan's Cars as played by Bill Bailey on car horns...

    1. VinceH
      Thumb Up

      As a Numan fan, seeing Cars as a suggestion in the body, but not listed in the options, I was a bit disappointed*. So I opted for the Tie Fighter sound instead. Obviously.

      * I haven't heard that Bill Bailey version in a while. That would be perfect. :)

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      A playlist by The Prodigy (I would personally favour Breathe)

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      "The only way to feel the noise..."

      What do you think should alert us to the presence of heavy metal doom hurtling towards us as we cross the street?

      The reanimated corpse of Lemmy. Nothing less will do.

      "The only way to feel the noise..."

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime

        Re: "The only way to feel the noise..."

        Nah Jesus built my hotrod - Ministry

  2. charlieboywoof

    Dumber and Dumber

    Problem exists already, with runnists and Lycraists using earbuds

    1. viscount

      Re: Dumber and Dumber

      Runners don't usually weigh 2 tonnes.

      1. devjoe

        Re: Dumber and Dumber

        As a non-earbud using cyclist, I was on my way home from work one evening.

        A lady jogging decided to run across my lane past a red light without looking, ran out right in front of me.

        She remained on the cycle lane until the ambulance picked her up.

        I luckily landed like a cat with barely a scratch, but had I hit the lamp-post right next to where I landed I could easily have been in a wheel-chair or worse by now.

        The point about this not being a new problem, and sounds not being the solution, is very valid. People need to look the f*ck up before they cross a lane.

        1. chivo243 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Dumber and Dumber


          I live in the Netherlands, and I upvote your sentiments and your post! I know all too well that a split second and a few inches make all the difference between a few a scrapes and a trip to the doctor. I've done both...

        2. Eddy Ito

          Re: Dumber and Dumber

          This is precisely the problem. Perhaps hey could focus their AI research to identify when said earbud wearing self-obsessed unaware dolt is in the vicinity and use a loudspeaker to draw everyone else's attention to that fact. It could be something simple like "Caution, beware prat in red wife beater and black lycra!"

        3. Trenjeska

          Re: Dumber and Dumber

          Seems it is time to forbid any type of earbuds in both ears when participating in traffic.

          Oh and ban them in public transit too when you are at it. I'd love to see humans trying to fail to interact with other humans while there >:-]

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dumber and Dumber

          40 years ago, as a child.

          I was left for dead in the middle of a road after some smuck did this to me; ran out without looking.

          I was saved from a serious head injury by my backpack, which cushioned my head (long before cycle helmets), but I was semi-concious and pretty concussed.

          30-40 people (some with their own children), walked/drove around me before some little old lady came out of her house and picked me up.

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Dumber and Dumber

        > Runners don't usually weigh 2 tonnes.

        You haven't been here in America recently, have you...?

      3. caffeine addict

        Re: Dumber and Dumber

        Someone here will be able to do the maths...

        The momentum of a bike and a car are obviously going to be rather different, but at 20mph, how does the impact pressure of the front of a car compare to the wheel / frame / handlebars of a bike?

    2. BeerTokens

      Re: Dumber and Dumber

      Gotta say one of the scarier things I see on the road is drivers with earbuds! but the general lack of awareness by road users that other road users might be around the next corner or be stopping soon is just astounding. I'm all for mandatory insurance for cyclists and driving licenses should expire after 10 years.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dumber and Dumber

        Drivers with earbuds? But how do earbuds prevent drivers from hearing all those pedestrians walking around in *really* loud shoes, or when they go "brmmmmbrrmmmm brum" as they walk?

      2. LucreLout

        Re: Dumber and Dumber

        driving licenses should expire after 10 years.

        As a driver, I have literally no fear of that at all. If I had to sit a test tomorrow, tonight I'd revise the official stopping distances (I haven't driven a 1970 Ford Anglia in a while so they don't apply to real driving) and a double check that no new road signs have been added since I last read the highway code (about 7 or 8 years back).

        However, we need to couple that with a licence to cycle bearing a similar testing and enforcement regime, and something akin to jay walking fines for peds.

        I am curious though, how you see the testing infrastructure coping with all the retests, revoked licences, and policing of same. After all, its pointless just targetting the law abiding drivers - you'd need to do somethign about the spike of newly unlicenced, unisured dirvers that would carry on regardles "because special".

        1. Chris Parsons

          Re: Dumber and Dumber

          Er.. they stopped making Anglias in 1967.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dumber and Dumber

            Stopping distances etc, in the book were done so long ago, very few grandparents have ever seen one of the cars used - so bear no real relevance to todays ABS equipped, hyper-wide tyre'd monsters - ditto corner speed advisory signs - Morris Minor with radial tyres??

  3. Andy 73 Silver badge

    Lotus: Been there, done that

    This was demonstrated by Lotus ten years ago (using a Prius) - a dynamic accoustic system that both warned pedestrians and gave drivers better feedback about what the car was actually doing.

    The Harman system they developed could choose engine sounds - either something Star Trekky, or a more traditional sports car sound - so your Nissan Leaf could sound like it had a V12 engine.

    1. AIBailey

      Re: Lotus: Been there, done that

      I'm pretty sure that Lotus have been working on that for years. I recall a news report (although it may have been on Tomorrows World) when they'd installed a similar system in a Reliant Robin so that from the inside you could chose what kind of engine sound you wanted.

      I believe it was actually to demonstrate active noise cancelling.

      1. Timbo

        Re: Lotus: Been there, done that

        "I believe it was actually to demonstrate active noise cancelling."

        Indeed, Lotus (and a few other car brands, notably Rolls Royce, and one or two "personal" jet aircraft manufacturers) use Active Noise Control (usually using a microphone, an inverting amplifier and one (or more loudspeakers) to actually make their vehicles quieter, when in use.

        This is usually done to reduce engine noise, as heard by the occupants.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just electric cars.

      Current petrol cars sometimes have fake engine sounds coming out of the radio/stereo system, because they no longer sound the same, and sales/marketing still want the customers to think they are getting the "same" car/engine. Kinda annoying to OCD/pedantic people like me... but IIRC you can turn it back off again.

      Pumping it out, instead of in, the car should be no problem.

  4. Pink Duck

    This is such a non-problem. For those with functioning vision there's little difference except 'signature lights' . For those without, the tyre and wind sounds are still notable at any speed of consequence (20 mph upwards). Nearly all modern EV/PHEVs typically come with pedestrian/cyclist sensors to mitigate frontal impacts too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " For those with functioning vision there's little difference except 'signature lights' ."

      I beg to differ. as a cyclist, I get a lot of situational awareness from the sounds around me, especially behind. I regularly look over my shoulder, but every little bit of information about where other road users are and what they are doing helps a lot.

      Admittedly, when I'm a pedestrian or a driver, the noise of cars or motorbikes isn't much use, because I've always got to look out for those awful silent cyclists anyway. I mean, who lets them on the road anyway? :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Also as a cyclist I can vouch for the fact that functioning vision doesn't always help. The number of car drivers who have looked directly at me and then proceeded to attempt to kill me is astounding.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yeah, the only time I've been run over exactly that happened: she looked straight at me, then drove straight out into me. Then was all shocked and burst into tears. Looking on the bright side, she was a radiographer, so if she'd broken any of my bones I would at least have got swift service!

      2. Baldie

        I have a solution for the problem of "awful silent cyclists". Check out ElliptiGo long stride bikes - nobody has ever walked out in front of mine. Though motorists who have never seen one before can be a bit dangerous, and it is noisy enough to make it quite hard to have a conversation on a ride without shouting a bit.

        1. Twanky

          ElliptiGo long stride bikes

          'kinell. $3.7k for a bike? More money than sense!

          Back to electric car noises: The noise they made in Gattaca, of course - or was that covered by the milk-float option?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Nearly all modern EV/PHEVs typically come with pedestrian/cyclist sensors to mitigate frontal impacts too."

      They only mitigate them if they're switched on. Not that Uber were to blame. Not at all.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      For those without, the tyre and wind sounds are still notable at any speed of consequence (20 mph upwards).

      Exactly this, a normal petrol car that is not accelerating also has an inaudible engine, all the noise is from tyres and wind. People have been talking about silent EV cars for ages, it's just not true.

      I can sneak up on people in EV mode at low speed, this often happens when I creep into a filling station, people standing there already look surprised when a silent car arrives (at less than 5MPH).

      1. LucreLout

        Exactly this, a normal petrol car that is not accelerating also has an inaudible engine, all the noise is from tyres and wind.

        Nothing with a boxer engine, a V6/8/10/12 or W configuration engine is ever silent, even just ticking over. Yes, if it has stop start tech then maybe, but if its not moving then the sound doesn't matter.

    4. jtaylor

      "For those with functioning vision there's little difference except 'signature lights' . For those without, the tyre and wind sounds are still notable at any speed of consequence (20 mph upwards)."

      I have a few blind friends. Vehicle sounds are how they identify if it's safe to cross a street or a driveway or walk through a parking lot. It's how they know when the light changes, and when to prompt their guide dog to attempt to cross. Drivers don't expect that pedestrians might have low vision, so the burden is really all on the pedestrian. And yes, drivers do run over white canes in their haste to cut off a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

      As for "speed of consequence" I'll ask around what people consider consequential as they're run over. Maybe blind people are trained to withstand impacts up to 20 mph.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You are forgetting the seeing eye dogs

      They listen for motor sounds. This issue has been around for a long time.

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: You are forgetting the seeing eye dogs

        So when your car comes alomg sounding like the USS Enterprise in a wormhole, and not like a car seeing as the sound is user-selectable, what's Fido going to do? At least some dogs are smart enough to understand the rules of the road. I have several in my neighborhood that always walk against traffic when on the road, and move off the road when they see a car.

        That doesn't count the one idiot dog that used to like sleeping just over the crest of a hill. I've not seen that one around lately.

    6. LucreLout

      For those with functioning vision there's little difference except 'signature lights' . For those without, the tyre and wind sounds are still notable at any speed of consequence (20 mph upwards).

      So blind people should do what? Just accept being hit at sub 20mph whenever they want to cross a road, because you view it as of no "consequence"?

      Nearly all modern EV/PHEVs typically come with pedestrian/cyclist sensors to mitigate frontal impacts too.

      The black cab / truck / bus / car / van / tank behind is still going to shunt the EV forwards at pace. Don't you think it's better if there's some recognisable audible indicator for the visually impared and for people around corners?

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Missed Option

    None of the above.

    I'm looking forward to a future of (relatively) quiet towns. Just the sound of the tires at any sort of speed is more than enough. If people have their eyes glued to their phones and their hearing muffled with 'beatz' well they're just likely to get a Darwin award.

    1. My-Handle

      Re: Missed Option

      Came to say the same, but with an attached anecdote.

      I used to commute through Reading town centre on a regular basis, and the amount of earbud-wearing zombie pedestrians that stepped out in front of sodding double decker buses without looking beggared belief. And those machines aren't exactly quiet. Tragically, one man did in fact lose his life to this during the time I lived there, but the investigation found that it was his own fault (they put it more tactfully than that). The bus's cctv clearly showed him stepping out without hearing or looking.

      I don't think a silent bus was the problem, nor "e-noise" the solution.

      1. Baldrickk

        Re: Missed Option

        That said, it's not always the pedestrians in Reading who are the problem! youTube

        1. Spamfast

          Re: Missed Option

          That said, it's not always the pedestrians in Reading who are the problem!

          Holy crap! (soundtrack reporter) "No arrests have yet been made." Did the bus even stop?!

          Reminds me a bit of my local pub which is right on a 90 degree limited visibility corner onto the narrowish one-way road where the town's main bus stops are. There's a pavement (sidewalk for USians) and the pub has a terrace with table seating on the outside of the bend. National Express coaches come wanging round the corner and the local buses do too albeit at a more sane speed. Needless to say there are often headphone/smartphone zombies wandering in and out of the pub and up and down the pavement.

          Never actually seen anyone mowed (mown?) down but it's still alarming if you're standing behind the driver about to get off the bus or when having a pint of Old Horizont sat at a table.

          However what horrifies me most is that taxi drivers and other people regularly pull up in front of the pub on the double yellow lines just on the exit of the turn to pick up & drop off despite the pub having a perfectly good car park around the back. While the local bus bus drivers are pretty aware of this they often have to brake harder and swerve more tightly which can be an issue for passengers in the process of getting ready to alight.

          I sometimes wish the bus driver would just grind his vehicle down the side of the taxi/car. I'd be happy to testify that the driver was illegally parked so his insurance could pay for all the damage. Hopefully this might discourage him from stopping on that corner again.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Missed Option

        Had the same happen locally, jogger running down the pavement in full earbud zombie mode suddenly turned and ran out onto the main road; he only got halfway off the curb before being ripped apart by the bus.

        The number of near misses I have had, in a large engined, decidedly not silent MPV; several in the "how the fuck did I miss her" range (nearly all women with prams/pushchairs).

        Seen 3 this week, one a child of 7-8, the other two supposedly responsible parents.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Missed Option

      Yes, those towns will be especially quiet when everyone gets run over.

      In a perfect world, we could use sounds in an interim period, until people got use to the new method/form of travel. However, I'm expecting this to go the same route as "phone bezels" and just keep getting more and more impractical car sounds as time goes by.

    3. Duffy Moon

      Re: Missed Option

      "I'm looking forward to a future of (relatively) quiet towns."

      Me too. I think it's one of the many benefits of EVs. The road I live on isn't particularly busy, but the road noise is still annoying and causes me stress - especially the low-frequency engine noises which cause my house to resonate. I'm sure stress levels are higher in people who live on very busy roads.

      If they must make a noise, perhaps it could be the clip-clopping of horses' hooves for a nostalgic hit.

    4. Spamfast

      Re: Missed Option

      Another 'me too' - quieter and I'll be breathing in a lot less crap especially if the cars use regenerative braking instead of discs.

      But as pointed out, a lot of noise above 20mph is from tyre and other friction and those tyres also throw off a lot of nasty particulates so please also pedestrianize (or bus/tramize!) town centres too. Makes them so much nicer for a stroll to Slim's Throat Emporium.

      It's not like anyone is allowed to park outside town centre shops anymore anyway. (Amen to that.)

  6. ISYS

    Geneva Airport

    Having been through many times I can offer the following advice - NEVER buy food or drink on the Swiss side of the airport. Once you have converted the price from Swiss Francs to Pounds or Euros you will probably have some sort of medical episode.

    On one occasion I was travelling with my wife and kids and we bought sandwiches and a drink each (the sort you can get in a meal deal) and I nearly fainted when I worked out I had just spent nearly £50

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Geneva Airport

      Last time I was in Geneva Airport, I didn't get the chance to spend any money becuase he queue to get through security was over an hour long and blocked the entrances to all the shops.

      Swiss efficiency? I've heard of it....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Geneva Airport

        You've got to expect some delays crossing from a 3rd country into the EU

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Geneva Airport

      Once you have converted the price from Swiss Francs to Pounds or Euros you will probably have some sort of medical episode.

      Well, that's true of anywhere in Geneva, not just the airport! At least it's back to 1CHF = 0.8EUR, for a while it was 1:1.

      The airport itself is one of the better ones in the area (far better than Lyon) except of course on Saturdays in ski season when all airports around the area are horrendous. If you think Geneva's bad, try Chambéry at 2pm on a ski Saturday during school holidays, and it has far fewer flights.

      As for the security queues, if you're travelling at a busy time it's well worth spending 8CHF on a ticket for the fast track security lane, from their website.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Geneva Airport

      Also at Geneva airport you also need to remember the golden rule that "if you are going to anywhere in France (apart perhaps from a handful of nearby villages) you need to exit via the Swiss side" (as that's where the autoroute is).

    4. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Geneva Airport

      At Geneva airport you can buy a swiss army knife in the airside shops, and take them on board your flight as long as it is a direct flight to your destination and no changes.

      I asked the guy in the shop about this, I think I said "are you sure?" about five times.

      Oh, and Geneva airport has an American burger place (can't remember if BK or McD) which have normalish prices.

  7. Shadow Systems

    Make them sound like RoboCows!

    Imagine a robotic cow farting like a techno tuba & you'll never miss the approach (or applaud the leaving) of an e-car...

    I'm sane, TheVoicesInMyHead swear it!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Make them sound like RoboCows!

      The strange thing is....

      My first car was a Datsun Cherry, but it had a rather distinctive sound - to me it actually sounded like what an electric car should sound like if they did make sound.

      Think of the noise that a cheap flatbed scanner makes when it's finished scanning and moving the lights back to th start

  8. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

    Problem already solved

    Wasn't this problem solved by kids in the 70's under the guise of "How to make your pedal bike sound (a bit) like a motorbike"?

    Put playing cards in the wheel spokes of electric cars! Not every solution has to be complicated!

    1. Locky

      Re: Problem already solved

      Spokey dokeys

    2. Martin Summers

      Re: Problem already solved

      Playing cards? How posh! Discarded crushed drinks cans or those plastic cheap cordial drink containers where I grew up!

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: Problem already solved

        Picture cards from packs of sweet cigarettes held in place by a clothes peg round our way.

        1. Andy Non Silver badge

          Re: Problem already solved

          Boudica had the right idea of what to attach to the wheels. Folks would look out then!

        2. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

          Re: Problem already solved

          Sweet Cigarettes ?

          I had forgotten all about those. Takes me back a bit.... Presumably banned nowadays?

          1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

            Re: Problem already solved

            I don't know if they are banned, but they certainly seem to have disappeared, along with loose tobacco made from shredded coconut and liquorice pipes.

          2. earl grey

            Re: Problem already solved

            They call them "dinosaur bones" nowadays. Sad, really.

  9. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

    More options needed

    I always hated the announcements at Geneva Airport being preceded by "How much is that doggy in the window?" chimes. Every, single time, over and over again.

    That would be my first option, it's difficult to ignore.

    Anything by Kraftwerk, but you know the one we'd all want.

    An old, air-cooled VW engine. Everyone would look round to see it.

    1. PerlyKing

      Re: old, air-cooled VW engine

      I heard an old, air-cooled VW engine yesterday morning and it was incredibly loud compared to the other cars in earshot. In fact modern cars in general are pretty quiet these days, I hear more tyre and wind noise than engine noise.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: More options needed

      Maybe a (US) diesel-electric locomotive. F40PH's are particular noteworthy (and are fast becoming extinct, which makes its sound even more notable).

      1. Diogenes

        Re: More options needed

        Nah a NSW AD60 class garrett or an SP cab forward. 40 years ago a mate of mine owned a mini and fitted it with a nsw 59 class steam whistle and a small compressed air cylinder. The reaction of airbud wearing pedestrians when they stepped out in front of him was hilarious when he hit the horn

    3. Twanky

      Re: More options needed

      Kraftwerk? Nah. You want people to move quickly out of the way, not sleepwalk.

  10. Lefticus Left

    Can they make it the same sound as the Engine noise in Continental Circus? ;)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

    I'm a determinedly non-lycra wearing cyclist, but my experience is that pedestrians are by far the biggest danger anyway. Even if not on their mobiles or plugged into stereo, their ability to turn on their heel and walk straight into the road is remarkable. Perhaps I should fit daggers to my wheels and play the sound of a V8...

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

      Why "determinedly"? I'm a cyclist, I don't wear lycra. It requires not the least determination!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

        I've just spent so long explaining to the madding crowd that I refuse to be anyone's object of sexual yearning by showing off my arse in lycra. Personal appeals are touching but must be ignored!

    2. Captain Hogwash

      Re: and play the sound of a V8

      Or a team of horses and a baying, bloodthirsty crowd?

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        From Apocalypse Now

        The Ride of the Valkyries

        And if you add the choppers and all kinds of war sounds, it's a sure way to get people's attention!

        1. Nick Kew

          Re: From Apocalypse Now

          If you're going to play the ride of the valkyries, you could at least pick a recording that gets it right, and doesn't completely mangle the rhythm.

          (I didn't follow your link, but I've heard the clip from the film).

    3. BeerTokens

      Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

      I've found that riding 3ft from the kerb helps negate this. however this does mean that car drivers are less likely to give you the correct amount of room whilst overtaking, or drive straight at you whilst negotiating a parked car on the other side of the road. kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place. Also not riding full tilt in busy areas helps (I was guilty of this but have taken a chill pill and things are less frantic)

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        I am death on two wheels.

        I cycle with a rear view handlebar mirror with a convex curve (anti shake) - it means I can see whether the road is all mine or whether a grumpy (by default) motorist is approaching behind me. So I can either keep well away from pedestrians, or drop in towards the side of the road, slow down, and take care. As for pedestrians and dog walkers... I usually ring the traditional-type bicycle bell well before I reach them, whether I have particular suspicion that they'll leap out in front of me, or not. And I'm ready to brake. With all that, if I run over you anyway, then it will be really unfair, for me.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

      "their ability to turn on their heel and walk straight into the road is remarkable."

      And cyclists never do the equivalent of this?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

        If they're turning on their heel, they are doing cycling wrong :-)

        But yes, the ability of some to completely ignore red lights...

        1. DiViDeD

          Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

          Most ridiculous thing I've seen in cycling terms was a bloke on a fixie (is that what they're called, basically no way to turn the pedals in either direction without moving the wheels too) doing a little 'to & fro' dance at traffic lights before eventually losing his balance and grabbing the car next to him. Just as the car driver decided to plug the gap between himself and the car in front.

          I just kept thinking 'one foot on the ground, then start off when the lights change'. A difficult concept, I know.

          1. molletts

            Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

            When I was at college, I sometimes used to see a guy doing that on a unicycle at the lights on Exhibition Road. The first time I saw it, I was so busy staring at him in amazement that I nearly walked into the lights myself :o)

            Cycling in London looks hairy enough on a normal bike; doing it on a unicycle takes balls of steel.

            1. cosymart

              Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

              Doing anything on a Unicycle takes balls of steel! Especially if fitted with those strange banana shaped saddles :-)

  12. LenG

    Yet more options

    The Merlin engine from the Spitfire. Best sounding IC engine ever.

    1. Ima Ballsy

      Re: Yet more options

      Better Yet:

      Really beautiful sound ....

    2. Colin Wilson 2

      Re: Yet more options

      ... apart from the Bristol Centaurus in a Sea Fury

  13. Vittal Aithal


    I always thought clip-clopping of hooves would be a good sound to use. The speed of the clip-clops would be relative to the speed of the car meaning a pedestrian would be able to judge speed and distance (through volume) from just the sound.

    1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

      Re: Clip-clop

      This would be worth it just for the possibility of hearing Doppler shifted hoof noises. Genius!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clip-clop

      you mean, like the sound of a horse charging towards you means you should run AWAY from the road?

    3. FozzyBear

      Re: Clip-clop

      Wouldn't the guy bashing the coconut halves together get tired after a while. Just as importantly where would he sit?

  14. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Ringtones for cars

    We've already discussed this here a long while ago. It could create a whole new "service" industry which is totally pointless but make s a few people very rich.

    Extra points for shooting drivers who choose either Hamsterdance or CrazyFrog.

    Having said that, I bet each manufacturer will use a propriety audio codec or design the system in some way that you can only buy one from them.

    1. Chris G

      Re: Ringtones for cars

      I agree a reasonable selection of 'car sounds' could be a selling point with options for custom downloads.

      Mine would be the banshee scream of an early Honda 250 four cylinder GP bike.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Ringtones for cars

        Or a Group A E30 M3 induction scream. Certainly distinctive...

      2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Re: Ringtones for cars

        The Imperial March would turn some heads. Fits in the Tie fighter as well

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Ringtones for cars

          or a Vulcan bomber on full afterburn?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ringtones for cars

            No afterburners on the Vulcan :-(

            1. Big_Boomer Silver badge

              Re: Ringtones for cars

              Yup, the afterburners were added for the TSR2 and Concorde.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Ringtones for cars

              Sheesh! Some people have no imagination!

              (Ok, ok, I was wrong. A Vulcan bomber on full throttle then.)

              1. J P

                Re: Ringtones for cars

                One year at the Dawlish Airshow they gave the Vulcan full beans as it headed back out to sea. It quite literally shook things off shelves and made things fall over in the hallway of my brother-in-law's flat (from where we were lucky enough to be watching). I have a feeling that there might be issues with having an entire high street full of those...

                1. MJI Silver badge

                  Re: Ringtones for cars

                  97% full throttle AFAIR

  15. viscount

    My own experience as a pedestrian is that it is surprising how loud electric cars are. Their tyre noise seems substantial except at crawl speed. A Tesla going past at 30mph seems as loud as a petrol car.

    1. PerlyKing

      Tyre noise

      I can't back this up, but several years ago I remember reading vague details about a supercar having trouble passing the type approval noise tests, for which they had to drive it past a noise meter at a constant speed. In frustration they tried coasting past with the engine off and it still failed the test just from the noise of the big fat tyres!

    2. Joe W Silver badge

      Having actually lived in a place with a substantial amount of electric cars: not such a big deal, but then most drivers were not hell bent on mowing down cyclists (or pedestrians, for that matter). You do get used to recognising the power converters' (or whatever) high pitched whine (at four decades old I can still hear it so... not _that_ high pitched), and register this as an incoming bogey.

    3. FlossyThePig

      A few years ago a, while walking along a quiet street, a BMW 5 series followed by an EV not a car (G-Whizz) passed me. They both made about the same amount of noise, yes, it was due to the tyres.

    4. Duffy Moon

      "A Tesla going past at 30mph seems as loud as a petrol car."

      That's just the sound of it falling apart.

    5. Christoph

      "A Tesla going past at 30mph seems as loud as a petrol car."

      In space, no-one can hear your Tesla's tire noise.

  16. CloudWrangler

    How about the sound of KITT from Knight Rider (the original series)

    KITT made an awesome turbine engine whine sound that was quite distinctive, and cool.

    If you have to have an electric car sound like anything, that would be my vote.

    Although I'd much prefer them to be silent.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: How about the sound of KITT from Knight Rider (the original series)

      Or the original BatMobile sound! Or Speed Buggy's!

    2. FozzyBear

      Re: How about the sound of KITT from Knight Rider (the original series)

      Along with the horn from dukes of hazard.

      Now that would confuse a few people !

  17. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    How about ...

    ... roo bars and the sound of a steam engine?

  18. chivo243 Silver badge

    Loud speaker mounted on the roof

    Hey Wanker with the earbuds, Look UP!

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: Loud speaker mounted on the roof

      Any loudspeaker on the roof must conform to the Lake Michigan beach PA from "The Blues Brothers", fed from Elwood's harmonica microphone.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Loud speaker mounted on the roof

      Hey Wanker with the earbuds, Look UP!

      Too subtle. QM2-sized foghorn, linked to the pedestrian detection equipment from a self-driving car.

      Assuming they survived the adrenaline jolt you'd probably also be able to book them for not carrying a plastic bag to cleanup the consequences from the pavement.

      1. Laura Kerr

        Re: Loud speaker mounted on the roof

        "QM2-sized foghorn"

        I like your thinking. After several near misses in the centre of Edinburgh when dumb tourists have stepped out in front of my Defender I'm seriously thinking about fitting a Peterbilt truck horn, like the truck in Duel had.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Loud speaker mounted on the roof

          Odd they are are not quiet, I have a LR product and the engine on that is not quiet.

          At idle you can hear the injectors at work. But then I use the engine cover as a tool tray!

          Sounds nicely truck like.

  19. tin 2

    Windows sounds

    Win XP startup sound as a car is coming near just makes me cackle.

  20. PerspexAvenger

    Easy - the "Jetsons" flying-car sound.

    Future! \o/

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Thumb Up

      Exactly! I came here to mention that particular sound had been missed from the survey.

      1. Richard_Sideways

        THIS! Plus, while on same theme, the noise Fred's feet used to make when pulling away in his car in 'The Flintstones' (or anyone making a quick getaway on foot in an HB cartoon)

    2. disco_stu

      I would be so happy to drive in a car that made the Jetsons sound - at least it would seem for a few moments I'm not living in a dysotopian future :D

    3. Eddy Ito

      For the young'uns who may have missed it.

    4. Robert Moore

      I would prefer that electric cars be silent. There are already electric cars and hybrids on the roads that are silent, or near silent. I have not seen or heard of a drastic increase in accidents linked to silent cars. I also think as more cars are near silent ambient noise should drop off making the minimal noise they do make more noticeable.

      This seems to be a problem that will solve itself.

      But if we must make the world noisier place for no good reason, I vote for the Jetsons noise. (At least it will make me smile.)

  21. Blockchain commentard

    Surely we can also legislate (looking at you Hawaii and California) for people to not look at the phones when crossing roads? If not, well it's just adding chlorine to the DNA pool (to clean it out) if meatbags then get hit.

    1. Velv

      Unintended consequences from the Merkins.

      A bill intended to ban plastic straws in Florida has been amended this week which not only no longer bans plastic straws (its set up a study), but actual bans locally enacted bans on plastic straws.

      Way to go Florida!

  22. ItsMeDammit

    "TIE fighter sounds – you'd get the fuck out of the way if you heard that..."

    From the survey:

    "TIE fighter sounds – you'd get the fuck out of the way if you heard that..."

    One of the coolest FX sounds ever. No further comment necessary. Just saying.

  23. PerlyKing

    TIE fighter sounds

    I once owned a RVF400 with a "sporty" exhaust. A friend of mine told me that when I overtook her that sounded like a TIE fighter :-) Then again the same friend described the experience of following me closely as "like being constantly twatted round the head with a big sheet of plastic". It turned out that the exhaust wasn't totally to blame; some previous owner had packed the baffles with rock wool so tightly that it was effectively solid....

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    1. MJI Silver badge

      See Merlin above

      Over shadowed by RR Merlin. Then the exploding noise as the RAF fighter shoots it down.

      1. Kubla Cant

        Re: See Merlin above

        Obvs the Spitfire is best. But the Stuka is distinctive is having sirens (Jericho-Trompete).

  25. Captain Hogwash

    The theme...

    from Steptoe & Son.

  26. Mint Sauce

    Ice Cream Van Chimes...

    Each manufacturer to have an allocated chime (Yankee doodle dandy for all usa built cars of course). The faster they go, the louder ( and more distorted) the chime. In fact, speed the chime up proportional to speed too..

    Absolutely no downsides to this idea at all. Nope, none! ;-)

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime

      Re: Ice Cream Van Chimes...

      Ice cream van for anything Italian?

      Have to be mechanical for anything French - they don't appear to do electrics very well (personal experience Megane electrical fire in rear drivers side window motor).

  27. Any mouse Cow turd

    It's already in the market

    Jaguar has already done this with the i-Pace. Exterior sounds for pedestrians (and guide dogs) as well as interior sound enhancement in sports/dynamic mode.

  28. Nick Kew


    Anyone in charge of a dangerous weapon - like a vehicle - needs to pay due care and attention, and not assume they can be heard. That's actually perfectly reasonable: as a cyclist I always have to be aware that pedestrians may not hear me coming!

    That pedestrian who isn't wearing anything in the ears nor looking down at something might be profoundly deaf. The difference between silence and noise is useless to them. For a driver to rely on sound is discrimination at a potentially-lethal level!

    To the rest of us, noise is just an unwelcome nuisance.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Discrimination!

      Deaf people use their other senses to compensate, so their situational awareness is usually pretty good.

      Idiots, however, don't.

  29. Natalie Gritpants Jr

    Should be a tune that inspires

    The music playing as the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang arrives in his cage-on-wheels should get the kids off the street. Maybe not the calls of "I've got sweeties though"

  30. ItsMeDammit

    Oh, wait - how about...

    The (bird) guide from The HitchHiker's Guide To The Galaxy - And Another Thing.

    "Battery. Battery..."

  31. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    You forgot to add 'ominous hummmmmmm'* to the choices

    *Schlock's Strohl plasma gun warming up

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
      Thumb Up

      Can I have a steering wheel button that goes "PZORCH" too? You know, to pretend I'm vaporizing the jerks who cut me off.

      (How many Reg readers are Schlock fans?)

      1. WolfFan

        Not nearly enough of them.

      2. Duffy Moon

        "(How many Reg readers are Schlock fans?)"

        The John Landis film?

        1. Omgwtfbbqtime

          Nope, Howard Tayler's webcomic of around 19 years.

      3. WonkoTheSane

        /me raises hand

        At "Chicon 7" - the 2012 World Scifi Convention in Chicago, I met Howard Tayler, and commisioned a sketch from him for a friend's wedding present.

  32. Ken 16 Silver badge

    There has to be an on/off switch

    I want the option of driving in complete silence at night.

    I will add aftermarket air horns to alert anyone who hasn't noticed me approaching.

  33. Chris Miller

    My electric car* has (by default, there's a button to turn it off) an electronic noise (Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System) that plays if the petrol engine isn't running at speeds below ~35mph - I assumed all EVs did something similar. It vaguely resembles the noise of a conventional ICE, but I wonder if there might be a hack to replace it by a recording of a good 'ole V8 burble (or a TIE fighter, if you must).

    * Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've got a Honda Accord Hybrid and it certainly doesn't play any noises when it's not running the ICE, regardless of the vehicle's speed. I can still hear the electric motors if I try, but they're not always on either.

      Personally, I'm quite happy with a car that doesn't make a ton of useless noise. Not a lot of pedestrians where I live, but plenty of drivers who don't bother to look where they're going. And my car still has the regular horn attached to warn oblivious idiots that they're trying to commit suicide. Quieter environments are better for your health too.

  34. MJI Silver badge

    Best electric vehicle noise.

    Found it first at New Street station, first time I had seen AC electric locos.

    The big ones (86s 87s) with their various fans sounded powerful, and they are/were.

    What is it about rail traction and noises?

    GWR exhaust bark. English Electric charge cooled V engines. Napier triangle engines. AC express locos with fans on full blast.

    1. The First Dave

      Re: Best electric vehicle noise.

      If you're going there, then the sound of a Deltic starting up, or an A1-class Pacific if you want to be _really_ retro.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Best electric vehicle noise.

        Class 37, pulling heavy load uphill............. You can feel it throbbing before you see it.

      2. WonkoTheSane
        Thumb Up

        Re: Best electric vehicle noise.

        Love a Deltic. 3 V12 engines, each using the other 2 as cylinder heads is an AWESOME idea!

        1. Tempest 3K

          Re: Best electric vehicle noise.

          Pfft, can't beat the noise of a Paxman Valenta

      3. Alister

        Re: Best electric vehicle noise.

        Nah, Class 40 whistler

  35. Ian Michael Gumby


    First FFS! e-Cars do make a sound, you can hear them driving down the road.

    Maybe not the loud raw sound of a V8, or V12 growling.

    Now if you want to make a sound , lets at least be intelligent about it. Like artificial intelligent.

    Lets give our cars a voice and really good sensors. As an example w lidar we can detect a fairly decent almost 3D image down to 1CM.

    Suppose you add in sonar/radar so you can find objects with a fast scan and then use the various components to determine whether is animal, mineral, or a human Then using video detecting as well as RF sensors, determine if the person crossing the street is listenting to their phone / ipod, ects... and then in a rude voice tell the pratt to look up, and turn off their device and pay attention.

    THere could even be a rude boy package that can further add cat calls or be rude to the offending pedestrians.

    And even a more enhanced feature that could identify the person, hopefully a girl, go thru her public facebook photos and chats and then make some other rude comment or snarky comment.

    As to why rude or snarky comments?

    How would you feel if you had a car driving down the street saying 'Watch out Dearie' , 'Thank you' or 'God Blessed.'

    Would that be sarcasm or a pious Prius that you want to beat in with the nearest heavy object.

  36. Dippywood

    A new take on a classic game

    Announcing Colossal Airport Adventure


    find boarding pass


    find passport


    return to security



  37. Ben Trabetere

    The smug, self-satisfied door hum from HHGTG

    ... might fit the general opinion of electric cars, but part of me hopes the 1KHz Square Sine Wave gets considered.

  38. WolfFan


    I advocate letting all know my exact intentions. The e-sound should be the drum Hortator from Ben-Hur (the good one, staring Charlton Son-of-God Heston) beating time, with a loud voice calling out, in Latin, "Give me ramming speed!" and the drum beats speeding up as soon as the car's on-board radar detects a target.

    Alternatively, the sound of a Tiger tank's engine and tracks, with a voice calling out, in German, "Tanks advance!" and with the Horst Wessel Lied playing in the background. Unfortunately this might not work in Germany, they lack a sense of humo(u)r.

    There are those who say that I have a bad attitude. I ignore them.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: Bah -- tank sounds

      The startup whine of the M1 Abrams' turbine engine is quite unique, especially the "FOOMP" as the ignition occurs, and then the whine REALLY gets going (faster and louder) until it reaches idle.

      It may be called "whispering death" at a distance, but you don't want to stand in that exhaust stream!

  39. WallMeerkat

    I once owned a big Honda with an automatic gearbox and petrol engine that was near silent on creep (the automatic mimics inching forward on the clutch, if you've never driven one). In a multistorey car park and 2 pedestrians walking down the middle of the roadway, awkward situation I keep behind them at a safe distance until they or I can move away, they turn around and seem startled that there was a car behind them all along that they never heard.

  40. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Fit people sensors and when it senses a person it shouts "Prepare to DIE Human scum!"

  41. Someone Else Silver badge

    How 'bout the opening Moog squeal glissando from EL&P's Hoedown? (And, of course, the first 3 notes of the Fanfare for the Common Man should be attached to the horn button.)

    ProgRock forevah!

    1. Alistair

      As much as I'm quite an ELP fan and of love FFtCM, I think there are huge swaths of Tocatta that would serve far better.

  42. Baldrickk
  43. cream wobbly


    What on earth is this nincompoop on about?

    "There is no e-sound. It has to be invented. The sound transports the emotions of a vehicle."

    The emotions (e-motions?) of an electric vehicle are the hum and whine of the electric motor as you're launched forward at a frightening rate. I used to hear it on my RC-10 and imagine myself driving, and I've heard it on a Tezzler and imagined myself being driven.

    Have these twits never heard a tram? or a train? or a Tezzler?

  44. David 132 Silver badge

    Missing Option

    The theme music from "Roobarb and Custard".

    If every EV sounded like this, it would certainly brighten up town centres.

  45. dharmOS

    Formula e racing cars sound like TIE fighters, albeit when they are at top speed.

  46. Eddy Ito

    Shouldn't it be more like fingernails on a chalkboard? Most folks would want to avoid that. Maybe even go all phased array so it's focused in a ten degree cone toward the front of the vehicle.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why bother?

    I drive for a living (conventional car) and have lost count of the number of phone or music player "zombies" I have nearly run down who are totally oblivious of ordinary cars, so I doubt whether making leccy cars audible in any way will make a lot of difference to these morons, who have obviously had all their auditory gubbins and self-preservation senses removed - not to mention other brain parts, such as sight receptors. If they take no notice of the noise (or the sight) of a car with an internal combustion engine, they sure as hell aren't going to register some new sound emitting from an electric vehicle.

  48. Christoph

    How about ...

    The hideous ear-mangling screech that used to precede announcements on the Tube a few years ago?

  49. PhilipN Silver badge

    None of the above

    I vote for a bloke with a red flag leading the vehicle on foot.

    AND can we address the real problem* by reserving a particularly nasty part of the prison system for those select few (but too many) drivers of 'leccy vehicles who think they are doing the world a favour and believe they are entitled to drive like twats!

    * I accept though what people say above about pedestrians charging unthinkingly into traffic. Seen it twice. Both times youngish girls somewhat pre-occupied. The first one, the bus (!) driver reacted instantly and she was left with a badly bruised shoulder. Damn lucky. Just imagine if he had been checking the mirror at that instant.

    The second walked through a (pedestrian) red light and was left unconscious on the ground by a motor bike. Not his fault at all and he was not going particularly fast - he stopped barely yards away - but he would have had a nasty time of it from the local fuzz. Regardless of what happened to the poor girl none of us wants that.

  50. Wenlocke

    I must admit I'm slightly more worried over running over some poor animal that hasn't heard my car rather than some person who should know they are on a road.

    This may make me an awful human being.

  51. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Just a quiet whoosh

    No more urban noise pollution. Crosswalk buttons shouting "Wait" and vibrating are bad enough. I think everything for navigating a city should emit standardized ultrasonic or RF encoded signals that portable devices use to assist people with sensory impairments. Ultrasound or SHF radio should do well with their fast attenuation and the ability to locate sources with a small receiver array.

    Up-sell potential: Donating $1000 to the deployment of this system lets you put a verb in front of your "car" signal.

  52. Cuddles

    Not that quiet

    At road speeds, the vast majority of car noise comes from the tyres, it's only at very low speeds that engine noise is at all relevant. But we already know perfectly well that even then normal engine noise is not enough, which is why even big lorries with massive diesel engines make all kinds of additional noises to let you know they're there when they're just pootling around parking and such.

    In addition, the idea that this is some kind of new problem caused by the rise of mobile phones and headphones is frankly hilarious. When I was a kid we were constantly bombarded with lessons and adverts going on about stopping, looking and listening, following the Green Cross Code, and so on. The problem of people diving headfirst into traffic without paying the least bit of attention has nothing to do with phones, millennials, the youth of today, or whatever modern thing you care to blame - it's been a constant of human existence since the very first proto-human first had the chance to injure themselves by not paying attention to something. Slightly quieter cars are not going to make things worse, and slightly quieter cars with loudspeakers aren't going to make things better.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not that quiet

      Yes, but just think of how much more interesting London would become, with random cyclist and electric cars with rotating daggers on their wheels, playing everything from the Imperial March to the Birdie Song, interspersed with the sounds of TIE fighters and explosions. We could even have named days with themes :-)

    2. rskurat

      Re: Not that quiet

      Apparently the lessons and adverts are no longer given, then.

  53. hmv

    Not strictly speaking silent

    a) Electric vehicles are not strictly speaking silent - there's road noise from the tires rolling across the road surface. Hard to tell when the roads are still full of fuel burners though.

    b) Before saying they're too quiet to alert people, consider whether the advantage of quieter traffic might outweigh the advantage of alerting those who aren't looking.

  54. Electronics'R'Us

    F-35 in full reheat

    Not only is that engine the noisiest in current aircraft, a really good generator would produce a useful pressure wave as well.

  55. Alister

    I think every car should be fitted with a siren, why should the emergency services have all the fun?

  56. Alan Ferris

    To match the velocity in cities...

    I want mine to have the clip-clop sound of horses' hooves

  57. herman Silver badge

    Noisy Tires

    Electric cars just need noisy knobbly tires, till people got used to the sound of silence and hearing acuity picked up.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When the car detects a pedestrian turning toward the road

    how about the screech of tires?

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