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Researchers help make electric vehicles safer but UFO reports could rise...

cbi-elvin.jpgA little green van called ELVIN is whizzing around the University of Warwick as part of a major research project aimed at tackling the safety issues linked to the lack of sound from electric vehicles. Researchers from WMG are investigating whether electric vehicles should emit sounds to alert pedestrians and other road users to oncoming vehicles.  ELVIN will be able to emit many different sounds, one of the range of sounds being tested is said to invoke memories of early science fiction movies.

Professor Paul Jennings, the lead researcher on the project, said “Electric Vehicles are very quiet externally and internally, which makes them a potential low-speed safety risk to pedestrians. Sound not only alerts people to the presence and direction of a vehicle, it also indicates the type of vehicle – for instance a bus – and whether it is stopping or accelerating.”

“The lack of sound can also make the vehicles unattractive to customers who expect, and even enjoy, aural feedback whilst driving.  The obvious solution is to artificially add appropriate sounds, but which sounds? At the same time, we don’t wish to lose the potential benefits of reduced annoyance from traffic noise.”

WMG has already built up considerable experience in researching and advising on how to enhance the sound quality experience for customers of prestige vehicles in an age when technology is actually making almost every aspect of such cars quieter than ever. 

This current research is being carried out with vehicle sound experts NoViSim of Hertfordshire, and Danish company EC Tunes.  NoViSim has developed some of the leading software tools for designing, evaluating and delivering appropriate sounds for cars.  Professor Jennings would like to hear from companies who have an interest in this area and would like to discuss contributing to the project.

People who hear ELVIN’s sounds are being asked to give their opinions on a range of issues including whether they are suitable as a warning or whether they are just annoying.  To date 70,000 people have visited the website with 1,700 evaluating ELVIN’s sounds.  As word spreads about ELVIN, the team intends that different community groups, representing for instance people who have limited sight, will come and listen to him and give their views.

Following this pilot study there will be a broader and longer-term period of study and research using this vehicle alongside a range of other vehicles, and WMG’s existing interactive simulation facilities for vehicle and environmental sound evaluation.

To hear ELVIN and be part of the pilot study visit: www.warwick.ac.uk/go/elvin