Town Square

a preventable accident

Original post made by Sarah, South of Midtown, on Aug 24, 2007

Is anyone else concerned about being hit by a silent Prius? I love the cars, but I've been surprised several times in parking lots and on walks, and it seems inevitable that an accident will happen. I wish Toyota, Tesla, etc, would add a sound such as a "clip-clop" when the cars are in stealth mode.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2007 at 10:04 pm

I tend to agree with you, my worry is that the accident will involve a child because they use their senses more when out and about on roads rather than what would be more apparent signs to adults that a parked car is about to move.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2007 at 6:45 am

Perhaps a "town" horn? Kind of an "ahem"?

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2007 at 8:59 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2007 at 3:04 pm

You don't get the typical audible warning/cue of a car coming when a Prius is sweeping down the street and you are planning to back out of your driveway...we must be extra, extra careful because of these cars.

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Posted by Just Singing in the Prius
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 25, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Maybe we should all be singing in our Priuses with the windows down. That would get pedestrians running away for their lives.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 25, 2007 at 9:26 pm

This present an interesting and unusual "road usability" problem, in that some of the most important cues that pedestrials and drivers use are aural cues. It's a perfect example of how everyday objects - when altered in some substantial way - lose certain user efficiencies in the environment in which they operate.

Toyota really does need to address this problem. Perhaps a front speaker that simulates the sound of an accelerating car, or some other solution, like sensors that "see" objects, and trigger an audible warning.

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Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 25, 2007 at 10:12 pm

Perhaps a cowbell bolted under the front bumper and/or playing cards taped so they rub against the spokes of the wheels?

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 25, 2007 at 11:14 pm

Just Singing: not funny.

The cars are too silent. We have all grown up listening for cars. I myself was shocked to find a hybrid suv back out of a garage onto the sidewalk where I was. It was day so I didn't really look for brake lights.

We all have to be careful. I hope that responsible owners (probably 1 out of 6 people) install backup sound lights.

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Posted by trudy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2007 at 11:17 pm

I find this discussion baffling. I would never step into the street or cross a driveway, etc. without looking for cars. As for looking for brake lights, what is the car is backed into the drieway?

The less noise the better, certainly not adding in those obnoxious backup beeps.

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Posted by Sarah
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2007 at 12:58 pm

It's just another safety shortcut the auto industry is taking. I'm as vigilant as humanly possible, but a hybrid SUV almost hit me this weekend near Ca Ave. We're walking through a parking lot, there's no auditory cue to step out of the way, and the person backed out quickly, clearly without looking. I'm feeling compassion for what the deaf community must have to deal with.

It would be great if the traffic roar in the Bay Area would disappear, but going completely silent can't work. So far, I vote for a sensor activated "ahem."

For those of you making light: I'd think most people have walked in parking lots or were momentarily distracted during conversations while walking down a sidewalk. Or maybe you're perfect and all drivers around you are perfect.

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Posted by Midtown Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2007 at 9:00 pm

I've been surprised by a stealth Prius at Town and Country Village near Peet's. It was in a hurry (some cars use T&C to cut through
to El Camino) and must have been doing 25-30 down that narrow
passage between parked cars. I was walking back to my parked car, and
I have to tell you Prius drivers like this one have no idea how
stealthy they are. All of a sudden it was upon me. No aural clues, and we're not talking about streets. We're going to see a lot of trouble from this. Add it to the news that famous people Who Shall Go Nameless get speeding tickets on state highways for going 107 mph in their Priuses!!! The illusion of safety??

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Posted by Grumpy
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2007 at 10:55 pm

This strikes me as an extreme case of Prius envy.

Some citizens spend upwards of $25,000 to buy a "green" car, which will alleviate both air and noise pollution, and you provide nothing but complaints. The car is "too quiet."

Is this a case of "No good deed goes unpunished?" or "Looking a gift horse in the mouth?" I guess the lesson here is "Watch where you are walking, folks." Hang up your cell (self) phone!

Funny, I always thought one looked for cars, not listened for them. Silly old me.

Question: Would you also complain about a Rolls Royce--"the loudest noise will be the ticking of the clock"

Summing up in the immortal words of Daffy Duck, "What a bunch of maroons!"

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Posted by Scott
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 27, 2007 at 11:45 pm

Hey "Grumpy," Prius' are fine cars, I don't own a cell phone and I watch where I'm walking. Are you telling me that ALL hybrid car drivers pull out of parking stalls slowly and ALWAYS know if someone's walking near their car? In your dreams.

Some of you are oddly defensive about all this.

I've had the **** scared out of me a couple times in lots by hybrids. If it hasn't happened to you yet, it will. But I guess Grumpy has superhuman powers.

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Posted by Walker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2007 at 9:02 am

I walk very sensibly, watching and listening (yes listening) for traffic, and have been surprised on many occasions. The most scary one was when a Prius silently came up behind me to park right beside me on the sidewalk, half on and half off. I do not have eyes in the back on my head and I do not expect cars to drive beside me on the sidewalk.

One of these days there will be an accident, it will be to an elderly person or a child, the driver and the pedestrian will both blame each other and the car will be deemed to be the cause by being too quiet.

My prediction.

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Posted by Human Nature
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2007 at 10:02 am

Bicyclists also rely on their sense of hearing when navigating the road. For example, hugging the edge of the road on a bike exposes the tires to a greater amount of debris. Riding slightly away from the edge and then moving in as cars approach is a fairly typical riding habit. (This can be done entirely within the striped bike lane, so no flames, please.) How to know that a car is approaching from behind? Its sound, of course.

The quiet-Prius defenders seem to assume that all bicyclists and pedestrians are (or ought to be) level-headed, spacially-aware, nimble adults. It's the children we should be especially worried about. "Stop, Look and Listen" is becoming obsolete; worse, it gives a false sense of security. The reason the "Listen" is in there is because sometimes we can hear danger -- a speeding car or even a parked car starting its engine -- before we can see it.

It's human nature to rely on sound to understand our surroundings. There are two options: attempt to rewire people's intuitive ways of understanding surroundings, or rewire the Prius to give us audio clues. To the Prius defenders: which do you think will be more successful?

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Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 28, 2007 at 10:07 pm

The Prius is not too quite. All the other cars are too noisy. Noise is just another kind of pollution. The Prius reduces this type of pollution as well.

Image for a moment how much quieter your cities would be if all the cars were as quite as the Prius.

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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 28, 2007 at 10:41 pm

I bike and have no trouble hearing a prius approach. Listen for an electric engine, they are not silent.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2007 at 9:28 am

Alan and RS.

You both make excellent points. Would that all cars, and other road noises were as quiet as Prius, then maybe we could hear the electric engines. Unfortunately, the only time I can hear one is late at night when there are no other noises, distant rumbles from trucks or sirens, kids playing, lawn mowers and leaf blowers, construction noises, etc. etc.

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Posted by Sarah
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2007 at 5:29 pm

I've written my representatives about this issue. Maybe you would like to as well?

I wonder where Tesla Motors (new zippy electric car store opening in Menlo Park) stands on all this. Will they be willing to spend a couple bucks per car to make bicyclists & pedestrians safer?

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Posted by Anon
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2007 at 11:51 pm

I almost got hit by a Prius today that was backing out of a parking space. I never realized those cars were THAT quiet. My first thought was that the car's parking brake had disengaged and was rolling backwards. I agree, Toyota should install that "backig up beep" that utility and construction vehicles use.

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 6, 2007 at 2:40 am

The less noise the better?
what about older people and people with disabilities
some people can't see as well as others.
Most people think only of themselves, empathy is rare
This problem exists its easy to solve it
but I am affraid a few people will have to die
before someone with half a brain that thinks that
will change his mind
J.D a guy with R.P