Volvo is introducing electric buses and they are not very noisy. In fact, they are almost silent; that's why Volvo is building in noisemakers. According to Peter Danielsson, Director Vehicle Features and Safety at Volvo Buses, a Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection System will set if there is a pedestrian around.
The bus can be heard – but without being disruptive. We’ve solved this problem by developing a synthetic background sound with a frequency range that is not perceived as disruptive. For instance, it does not penetrate windows with triple glazing, unlike the low-frequency noise made by a diesel engine.”
But if the pedestrian doesn't take notice, it will get more aggressive. The Volvo press release notes that " it is important that drivers and anyone moving around near buses – such as at bus stops and pedestrian crossings – pays close attention to the traffic." So the the system then honks at pedestrians and beeps at the driver.
The Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection System continuously monitors the bus’s vicinity using a camera. When the system detects unprotected road-users near the bus, it transmits a sound to warn other road-users that the bus is approaching. At the same time, the driver is alerted via sound and light signals inside the vehicle. If there is an imminent risk of an incident, the bus’s horn is activated.
“Several of the components in our system are based on the same tried and tested technology found in many cars. But we are the only vehicle manufacturer to offer a solution that simultaneously notifies both driver and unprotected road-user,” says Peter Danielsson.
I have wondered about Volvo's attitude to pedestrian safety before, namely that it seems that they are more interested in warning them to get out of the way rather than having the driver actually slow down or be responsible. They propose things like this silly bike helmet that warns you to stop because a Volvo is coming. My first reaction to this auto-honking bus was similar- If someone is in the crosswalk, the bus driver should stop, not honk.
But then I read about yet another case where a bus driver right-hooked and killed a 14 year old girl in Toronto and beat charges because it was a "tragic accident." Or how in New York, where the Transit Union claims that pedestrians are a menace.
Driving a bus isn't easy, there is a lot to worry about and lots of blind spots. Perhaps a Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection System would be a good thing, not just on electric Volvo buses but on every bus. Just don't honk too much.