If you've ever tried to back a Prius (or any other vehicle capable of running in EV mode) out of a blind parking spot or alley, you know the icy feeling of being audibly invisible to every living thing around you – pedestrians, paperboys, small animals. It can be frustrating at best, Michael-Douglas-in-Falling-Down-frustrating at worst. At least your silent motor will let you hear the crunch of bones as you back over their inattentive, silly corpses.
But seriously, the more our cars, buses and motorcycles go electric, the more we'll have to come to terms with the fact that electric vehicles are virtually silent. You know what else is virtually silent? Ninja assassins. And king cobras. And carbon monoxide. Virtually silent things are freaking dangerous!
Well, the good folks at Philips are working on a potential warning system for future urban crosswalks that could help eliminate some of the danger of silent streets. What was a 66-acre property in The Netherlands that housed Philips' research labs and factories is now being converted into an "inspiring creative urban neighborhood." It appears that it will be a sort of eco-minded, mixed-use neighborhood and urban lighting experiment rolled into one.
The idea is simple: instead of paint and reflectors, Philips crosswalks are made up of rows of LEDs embedded into the pavement. The LEDs react to approaching vehicles the same way traffic lights do. When speeding Teslas, or in the case of the experimental neighborhood, lumbering electric buses (dubbed Phileases), approach a crosswalk, the embedded LEDs change from green to amber to red. Green means safe to cross, amber means take your chances and red means don't take your chances.
The system even appears to have a standby mode to save energy when no pedestrians are nearby. No word on if and when we might see one of these outside The Netherlands.