Hybrids have been a huge success when it comes to an otherwise morbid auto market. How do we know? Well, the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius were smirked at when they first came out by the rest of the auto industry. Now? The rest of the auto world is kicking out hybrids like there is no tomorrow. There are even hybrid motorcaycles on the drawing board. Could a hybrid Ferrari be next?
The hybrids are generally positively reviewed. That being said, the first time you drive one can definitely be a unique experience. The problem? A funny thing happens when you come to a stop such as sitting at a red light. The car is silent and there is no vibration since the engine isn’t running. Every driver goes through the same experience the first few times. They aren’t sure the car is actually on and try to start it up again!
While you will eventually get use to driving a hybrid, the initial discomfort points out a safety issue that many people are starting to pay more attention to. What is it? The silence of the hybrid car or truck. The problem is not how the driver perceives it, but how people on the street do. Most of us listen first and then look when crossing the road. Well, hybrids are eerily silent, so there have been problems with people nearly getting hit before they realize a vehicle is coming down the road. This is particularly true in neighborhoods where kids are playing and might run out in the road.
The issue has become a big enough problem that Congress is getting involved. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 is a proposed bill that would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set safety standards that would comprise some type of warning system for people on the road. While I favored put playing cars in my spokes when riding a bike in my youth, the car companies are going with a different approach where they hope to put small speakers in the front bumpers that will make “car like noises”.
Given the wide range of ringtones for cell phones, can’t you just see the possibilities? Maybe I’ll dial up a Lamborghini engine noise for my 1968 VW Van or a 1968 VW Van noise for my Ferrari [I wish]! Regardless, expect hybrids to come with sound tracks in the not to distant future.