Newfangled cars need to make a little noise
A little noise is good for you. It may even save your life.
Don't, for instance, step off a street curb without looking both ways. An electric car might be bearing down on you.
Automobiles on kilowatts are quiet to a fault. They don't pollute, which is the whole idea. But any moving object that weighs a ton ought to give some audible notice that it's passing by, according to the safety police.
Some kind of artificial “look out!” is what the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has in mind. It proposed a rule that manufacturers of electric and hybrid cars and trucks install a buzz, rumble, rattle, or whatever it takes to quit tooling around at speeds under 18 miles per hour. Over 18 mph, they're OK; they make noise.
It's not that the roads are exactly crowded with electrics as yet.
They cost a ton, tend to have short driving range between recharges, and raise doubts at trade-in time. But fears of global warming aren't going away, nor the suspicion that gasoline-burning — anything burning — helps cause it. So a battery-driven car “refueled” by an overnight plug-in in your garage might make commuting sense for millions.
But they've got to be noised-up. Otherwise, they'll surely run into hearing-impaired or not-thinking-when-they-cross pedestrians.
The government's computers estimate that 2,800 injuries to walkers and bikers would be saved per year if its noise rule takes hold. Not to mention the economic benefits to noisemaking inventors. The public has 60 days to “comment.”
Ironically, modern life is cursed with too many, not too few, decibels smacking the eardrums. Pure silence is a rare, unexpected pleasure. Who hasn't regretted the “roaring traffic's boom” of a Cole Porter song? Or, speaking of music, the piped-in trash you hear in elevators, stores, restrooms, eateries and factories, or the conversation-killing “music” at wedding banquets. Some noise seems positively targeted to bully you: the machine gun nest thunder of a motorcycle taking off from a red light, for example.
Virtually all industrial noise (and kids' “music”) should be brought down as far as possible, for the sake of people's hearing over the long run.
Still, the dignity of mass production, no less than a slope-hooded electric car, ought to make some noise.
A forging press coming down on its dies with tons of hammering bang convincingly bends sheet metal. Molten steel hisses and seethes in ladles. Rolling mills spit, smack and whine. Assembly lines clatter and hum. Forklifts grunt and snuffle, big trucks crowd your rear-view mirror to get attention and then roar by. Ships loaded by squealing container-cranes blow their steam whistles as they wash and splash away from their piers.
Favorite noises can be missed as nostalgically as sights and smells.
In the news business, teletype machines used to chatter in “wire rooms” not far from reporters' clicking typewriters and the whoosh of pneumatic tubes. Now there's a library-like, felt-muffled chorus of computer keyboards, which have to artificially be made noisier than they are to enhance the feeling of work being done.
But there's no question that an automobile ought not to move around city streets like a footpad. Only when electric cars sound like “real” cars will most drivers accept them as cars. Cheaper would help, too.
Jack Markowitz is a Thursday columnist for Trib Total Media. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: At start, are Pens already finished?
- Orie denied bid to appeal conviction on corruption charges
- Identical twins born at West Penn Hospital a rare medical marvel
- Pittsburgh Public evacuates 3 schools after voicemail threat
- Accused Franklin Regional stabber allowed 1-hour furlough to pay respects to grandmother
- Susquehanna Co. man admits illegal exports to Syria
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger still hurting after hard hit from Ravens’ Upshaw
- City of Pittsburgh detective, 2 boys finalize adoption before judge
- Penn Hills transforms into NYC for Vin Diesel witch movie
- Consol, Noble expect at least $325 million from partnership’s IPO
- FedEx to add 50,000 seasonal jobs