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The New Jaguar I-PACE Uses Audible Warnings to Keep Pedestrians Safe

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【Summary】During notification, the sound is released from a speaker hidden behind the front grill. Jaguar’s Audible Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) changes in pitch and volume, depending on the speed of the EV.

Michael Cheng    Oct 18, 2018 10:14 AM PT
The New Jaguar I-PACE Uses Audible Warnings to Keep Pedestrians Safe
author: Michael Cheng   

Electrified cars are quiet by nature – that's what most people love about them. But for pedestrians with sight loss, the lack of engine noise makes detection incredibly difficult. As a solution, automakers are equipping their EVs with an audible sound.

For the Jaguar I-Pace, the EV's Audible Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) sounds like a smooth, whirling engine. The audible recording, which took four years to develop by acoustic engineers, was released over a year before the automotive feature becomes mandatory in all EVs on public roads (more on this later).

Audible Vehicle Alert System (AVAS)

Initially, Jaguar equipped the I-PACE with a spaceship-like sound to warn pedestrians about the vehicle's presence. After mixed reactions from individuals, who reacted to the sound by looking up instead of the road, the automaker settled for an audio clip the resembles a traditional engine. During notification, the sound is released from a speaker hidden behind the front grill of the EV.

Jaguar's AVAS changes in pitch and volume, depending on the speed of the EV. Additionally, when the vehicle is reversing, an extra tone is released to notify pedestrians about the change in direction.

"The absence of traditional engine noise from electric vehicles creates a problem for vulnerable pedestrians, such as the blind or visually impaired. This is especially true at low speeds in town centers and car parks," said Iain Suffield, Jaguar NVH Technical Specialist.

Jaguar tested the AVAS on members from Guide Dogs for the Blind. During the trials, individuals from the UK-based charity helped mimic real-word scenarios involving the I-PACE and blind pedestrians. The EV performed several driving maneuvers, from turning at tight corners to reversing out of a parking space and stopping at intersections with pedestrian crossings. Furthermore, the AVAS was tested in an anechoic chamber (echo-free room).

It's important to note that Jaguar's AVAS in the I-PACE cannot be disengaged. Passengers traveling inside the EV cannot hear the audible warning from the cabin. This feature allows the automaker to cater to both preferences – individuals looking for a quiet rides and blind pedestrians relying on an audible sound for guidance.

Legislation for Audible Warning Sounds

To ensure widespread implementation of this feature, the European Union has requested for all EVs to be equipped with an audible warning system by July 2019. The EU legislation's standards for the warning sound are practical, requiring a minimum 56dB at speeds up to 20 km/h.

In the US, a similar ruling was released under the Obama administration. For EVs sold in the US, EV manufacturers have until September 2020 (50 percent compliance is needed by September 2019) to comply with the federal safety standard. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the safety regulations could prevent up to 2,400 injuries per year.

"Guide Dogs campaigned hard to make it compulsory for quiet vehicles to have sound generating systems built in and turned on, including when the vehicle is stationary at a pedestrian crossing," highlighted John Welsman, Policy Business Partner (Travel & Mobility), Guide Dogs for the Blind.

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