Toyota demonstrates artificial engine noise in 2012 Prius [Video]

Toyota has demonstrated its first attempt at a proximity notification system, which is aimed at helping pedestrians here approaching all-electric or hybrid vehicles.

Toyota has demonstrated its response to the new Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act approved by lawmakers last year. In essence, the Act requires manufacturers of electric-only or hybrid vehicles to emit noise so that pedestrians, particularly those of who may be blind, can hear them. Toyota also believes that its solution will benefit cyclists and distracted pedestrians who might be buried in their smartphone.

Sounding like something straight out of the futuristic Tom Cruise film Minority Report, the sound is only emitted at speeds below 15mph. It uses a combination of high- and low-pitched sounds to help make it audible against typical suburban background noise.

More after the video

To give pedestrians a sense that a vehicle is approaching, Toyota also makes the sound mimic the way the sound of a combustion engine rises and falls as it increases and decreases its speed. The legislation requiring noise to be generated does not actually specify what it should sound like, but the Toyota solution is without doubt both innovative and effective.

Other EV and hybrid manufacturers have also been quick to respond to the initiative. GM has added a driver activated alert to the Chevy Volt, while Nissan is also adding a sound-generation system to its Leaf.

However, as effective as manufacturers' proximity notification systems are, it is unlikely that they will fall on the deaf ears of the iPod-generation, who blithely go about their business, detached from all external contact.

1.'Toyota demos Prius'...' view