From July 1, 2019, electric road vehicles in the European Union (EU) must be equipped with an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) so that especially visually impaired pedestrians may hear them approach – but what should they sound like?
In London, possible sound options have included a bubbling noise and intermittent bleeps. Specialists who were asked to comment on the sounds being developed for London buses said most of them sounded like futuristic vehicles from sci-fi films.
“There is a danger that there is going to be so many different wacky sounds from lots of different companies that it’s going to be really hard to work out what is a vehicle and what is something else in a city,” said Zoe Courtney, from the Royal National Institute of Blind People. She explained that it was important that the sound adopted would also used across the UK, so that, logically, the sound was recognisable irrespective of the locality.
As it turns out, most people asked – including representatives from Guide Dogs UK and the Noise Abatement Society – wanted the familiar sound of a combustion engine bus, only quieter.
Perhaps this will go the way of the telephone. For a long time, digital phones mimicked the ringing sound of the mechanical bell they had when they were first invented. Now people tend to pick one of a few standard electronic sounds – weird or funny sounds get very irritating very quickly.
Back to buses, so far nobody seems to have suggested music, like a Wagner opera, or a happy bus song, or a voice saying “this is a bus, this is a bus,” or… ( ;