Even as Toyota celebrates one decade of the existence of its Prius hybrid, one feature long missing from this vehicle is about to be added to at least models in Japan. It is a safety function geared towards those around the vehicle to let them know about the presence of the sometimes very quiet car.
One challenge with hybrids, as drivers know, is that they get very quiet when the vehicle’s electric motor is running by itself to propel the car. This can be a problem for pedestrians and others who, for one reason or another, don’t notice the Prius sneaking up on them. Toyota’s on-board remedy for this, said the company, will emit “a synthesized sound of an electric motor when the Prius is operating as an electric vehicle at speeds up to approximately 25 km/h. The sound—aimed to alert but not annoy—rises and falls in pitch relative to the vehicle’s speed, thus helping indicate the vehicle’s proximity and movement.”
This audible alert system will go on sale in Japan at the end of the month for third-generation Prius models for 12,600 yen. The automaker also has plans for other versions of the device for use in gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles as well as fuel-cell hybrid vehicles planned for launch. As for overseas sales, Toyota is considering its future options around this system.