Jaguar I-Pace emits pedestrian warning sound: Would it make you look?


Jaguar’s production of its first electric car means it also has to deal with a problem everybody else has been trying to solve: noise, or rather, the lack thereof. People can hear an engine at low speeds when they’re walking along a sidewalk. The same can’t be said for silent-operating electric cars.

We wrote about Chevrolet’s latest solution to the noise problem a few weeks back, and now is sharing what it came up with for the I-Pace. The noise it didn’t use is almost more interesting than the one it did, though. Jag says its first iteration was meant to be spacecraft/UFO inspired, but apparently it was so convincing that people tended to look up at the sky instead of at the road. Engineers switched it to what seems like a pretty general hum for production. Take a listen yourself in the video above — you’ll hear the noise at the 40-second mark, and a few other spots after that.

The sound is emitted from a speaker behind the grille at speeds up to about 12 mph. It’ll change in pitch and volume to correspond to the increasing or decreasing speed of the vehicle — it even changes tone when you shift into reverse to signal a change in direction. Jaguar says the noise is no longer needed at speeds above 12 mph because tire and wind noise become sufficient enough at that speed. Chevy turns the noise off on the Volt at about 20 mph, however, showing that manufacturers haven’t really come to a consensus on what should be happening. A U.S. law that hasn’t gone into effect yet will ask manufacturers to keep the noise at up to 18.6 mph, though.

We happen to be partial to the jaguar growl heard right at the end of the video as a sound. That’s how you make an entrance with a Jaguar.

These kinds of systems are necessary to warn those who might be blind or visually impaired, but distracted walkers are a huge demographic of people needing a warning too. Everybody walks around with their head buried in a phone nowadays, making silent vehicles a hazard of our own habits. Jaguar says it specifically engineered the noise so that it doesn’t intrude upon the cabin, so only pedestrians are bothered by the hum when slowly plodding through cities.

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