Volvo's Electric Buses Might Be the Rudest Around, They'll Honk at Pedestrians

Volvo Bus pedestrian an cyclist detection system 4 photos
Photo: YouTube screenshot
Volvo Bus pedestrian an cyclist detection systemVolvo Bus pedestrian an cyclist detection systemVolvo Bus pedestrian an cyclist detection system
If that commercial where a flash mob of instrumentists got into an electric Volvo bus and had an impromptu concert didn't relay the message, here it is again: the Swedish company's battery-powered people haulers are very silent.
That's excellent new for everyone involved: the people traveling inside who can now have a decent conversation, listen to music without interference from the noisy diesel engine or read a book in perfect acoustic comfort. It's great for the driver as well, even though the engines were located at the back so they weren't too affected by the noise and vibration. The people waiting at the bus stop would also enjoy a silent, non-polluting vehicle pulling over to pick them up more. People in other cars, especially those driving behind, should breathe a clean sigh of relief. Alright, let's just make this simple: everybody is happy about Volvo's electric buses.

Except Volvo had to go and ruin it all. The silent nature of electric vehicles is half of their appeal, but it's also what makes them slightly dangerous. After years of noisy heat engines, people have become accustomed to relying on their hearing too much while dealing with traffic issues. For instance, if we're a pedestrian on a narrow one-way street, we're very likely to cross without looking if we can't hear a vehicle approaching.

Bicycle riders have been dealing with this problem for years, and now electric cars have joined them. To prevent this from happening, EVs have sound emitters to warn people of their approach. Volvo's electric buses have them too, and they're a little stronger than that. This is how the press release describes them: "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.”

If, however, the pedestrian of bicyclist fails to take notice of the approaching bus, its Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection System kicks in. Its first step is to alert the driver of the potential hazard. However, if the driver fails to react, the system will not actuate the brakes, but sound the vehicle's horn. Yeah, Volvo buses might be the first programmed bullies.

Have a look at the video Volvo provided. It shows the bus approaching an intersection at the same time as a bicycle. There are no traffic signs to tell us which vehicle has the right of way, so we'll assume it's the bicycle since it's coming from the right. Still, the bus doesn't slow down, but emits three successive honks instead. Seeing how the rider isn't impressed by the bigger vehicle's demonstration of force, it finally does the sensible thing and stops. Good job, Volvo. We sincerely hope your autonomous cars will be a lot better than this. And a lot more well mannered.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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