2010 Lexus HS 250h - Click above for high-res image gallery
Now that hybrid cars have taken the top sales spots in Japan for the last few months, that country's Transport Ministry is reportedly launching an investigation to determine whether it's wise to require hybrid automobiles to emit an artificial sound when operating with the internal combustion engine switched off. The thinking is that hybrids may be more dangerous to the blind due to their quiet operation under electric power.
According to an unnamed official, the government's 13-member panel – consisting of a diverse group of scholars, vision-impaired groups, consumers, police and automobile industry officials – "decided to consider introducing a sound-making function" on all hybrids at its first meeting on Thursday, July 2. The panel hasn't yet decided what sound hybrids should make. We'll cast our unofficial vote in the direction of cowbells.
The issue is well-known in America, where the government has launched Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Acts in each of the last two years to study the supposed problem. Naturally, there is some opposition to artificial noise generators on hybrids. "On the other hand, we should pay attention to residents (along roads) as hybrids are excellent in reducing noise," added the Transport Ministry official.