There can be few sounds more annoying than the dull plunking of the Intel jingle or the duh-duh duh-da-duh that precedes a McDonalds ad’s grammatically over-elaborate assertion of non-specific appreciation.

Happily such sounds can be avoided with relative ease, through the simple expedient of not watching TV or radio. But escaping the enervating effects of intrusive corporate jinglage may soon become much much harder.

Step out on to any city street a couple of years from now, and you’ll be assailed by the queasily dopplerised signature themes of assorted electric car manufacturers. That or the retro-futuristic whirrings so pleasingly familiar to aficionados of celluloid sci-fi (see below). Or both.

On the premise that high-speed silent vehicles are a hazard to the hapless pedestrian, “regulators in the European Union, Japan and the United States,’ The Daily Mail claims, are considering allowing electric car makers to “project various sounds from vehicles in place of engine noise.”

Road safety experts, the paper reports, believe the green credentials of zero-emission cars may be counteracted by the multiple fatalities inflicted on unwitting passers-by by these silent killers. This seems somewhat muddleheaded. Surely, having fewer people alive would be good for the environment.

Research published by the University of California found that hybrid vehicles got 40 per cent closer to pedestrians than their combustion engine counterparts before being detected. Whether fully electric vehicles made it all the way and actually struck their intended targets is not recorded.

Scientists at Warwick University, the Mail avers, “are to begin testing various sounds this month in conjunction with several electric-vehicle manufacturers in the West Midlands.” Professor Paul Jenkins told the paper “We will have weeks with natural sounds, engine noise and also with science-fiction sounds.’ Then possibly weeks with Sabbath, Zep or Slade.

Green Car editor Faye Sunderland told the Mail “Public opinion is still lured by the bohemian ideal of blissfully quiet streets. Nice to think we will soon hear birdsong instead of traffic roar, but the truth is: it won’t be like that.”

No indeed. Wherever there’s “noise projection” there’s a brand awareness opportunity. Bing-bing bing-bing Bong! Vorsprung durch technik! Or, to the tune of that old Wo-gan TV theme: Nis-san, Nis-san, rush right out today and buy a Nis-san!

Bankstone News saw a car the other day projecting a muffled, vaguely threatening voice endlessly repeating the words VOTE LABOUR. That seemed to be clearing the street pretty effectively.


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