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At Last, a Noisy Toyota Prius

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author photo by Autotrader August 2010

Even though hybrid and electric vehicles seem like the ideal solution to rising gas prices and pollution levels, they also have a downside: they're often too quiet for their own good. So when they approach a sight-impaired person, or come up behind a hearing-impaired person, or just someone too preoccupied with their BMX bike, say, to take much notice of traffic, then there's a hazard.

Enter "The Drone." That's not its official name, but "electronic humming device" seems a bit clumsy. And calling it a "hummer" would send the wrong message entirely. It's a discreetly placed little speaker system that emits a sound while the car is moving.

Not only is the Prius the best-selling hybrid in the world, it's currently the best-selling car in Japan, so Toyota has recently made this feature available in its home market. It costs the equivalent of $168.

The electronic whirr sounds a bit sci-fi. It goes up in pitch and volume as the car goes faster. The maximum level is not obtrusive in busy city traffic, yet loud enough to be noticeable on quiet streets. It can be turned off, but is always enabled when the car is first started up.

Toyota is considering the feasibility of making "The Drone" (it really does need a good name, doesn't it?) available in other countries, including the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported last year that, compared with conventional vehicles, hybrids are twice as likely to be involved in low-speed accidents with pedestrians.

General Motors, Ford and Nissan are also said to be working along similar lines. GM has the Volt plug-in hybrid coming soon. Ford makes the Fusion, Escape and Lincoln MKZ hybrids, while Nissan's all-electric Leaf goes on sale later this year.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
At Last, a Noisy Toyota Prius - Autotrader