Near-silent electric vehicles pose a danger to people with visual impairments, so engineers are studying ways to make the vehicles audible while maintaining the benefits of quieter streets.
“The electrification of mobility presents humanity with a rare opportunity to reimagine the way cities might sound,” writes John Seabrook in the New Yorker, replacing the grating noise of gas engines with the quiet smoothness of electric vehicles. But car noise can also be an important warning mechanism for people with visual impairment and all pedestrians. “Not only does engine noise announce a vehicle’s presence; it can also convey its direction, its speed, and whether it is accelerating or decelerating.”
According to a little-known 2010 Congressional act, “every E.V. and hybrid manufactured since 2020 and sold in the U.S. must come equipped with a pedestrian-warning system, also known as an acoustic vehicle alerting system (AVAS), which emits noises from external speakers when the car is travelling below eighteen and a half miles per hour.”
The article outlines the development of electric car soundscapes, which have become more specialized as research reveals the most effective sounds for both pedestrians and drivers. “Automakers have enlisted musicians and composers to assist in crafting pleasing and proprietary alert systems, as well as in-cabin chimes and tones.” The question is more complicated than one might imagine: “How do you put into regulatory legal language that a car should sound like a car?” asks John Paré of the National Federation of the Blind.
Meanwhile, electric cars must still be loud and distinctive enough to be useful. To that end, we could end up with a future just as noisy as today, “a cacophony of sound and dissonance if these cars are all singing different tunes, in different key signatures and pitches,” says Douglas Moore, a senior expert in exterior noise at General Motors.
Inclusive Prosperity: No Displacement Necessary
Recent analysis identifies nearly 200 U.S. neighborhoods that have achieved the highly-sought-after goal of increasing the prosperity of residents without displacing the existing community.
Making Healthy Places
The editors of the book "Making Healthy Places," recently published in a second edition by Island Press, discuss the intersections of public health and planning, including key concepts such as green gentrification, health impact assessments, and AI.
Chicago ADUs Concentrated in More Affluent Neighborhoods
An analysis of city-issued permits shows that homeowners in gentrified wards are building accessory dwelling units at much higher rates than those in less well-off communities.
Tempe’s Car-Free Developers Headed to Atlanta
Culdesac, developer of a massive no-parking multi-family development in Arizona, is headed to Georgia.
Is it a Rowhouse, or a Rowhome?
Philadelphia has long been acknowledged as the capital of rowhouses in the United States. It’s becoming more common for those rowhouses to be referred to as rowhomes.
Maps for Proposed San Francisco Bay Tunnel Revealed
Planners presented two options for new tunnels that would help connect more parts of the Northern California megaregion to San Francisco and Oakland.
HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research
Smart City Expo World Congress
Daniel R. Mandelker
City of Charleston
City of Crystal River
Sun City Center Community Association, Inc
This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.