Electric cars glide along so quietly at low speeds that for pedestrians and cyclists it can be hard to hear them coming.
That’s why regulators in the U.S. and Europe have introduced new rules instructing automakers to equip their electric vehicles with an alert system that makes a sound at low speed.
While many manufacturers are already fitting their electric vehicles with somewhat bland acoustic alerts, Fiat’s newly unveiled all-electric 500 hatchback comes with an awesome little tune that will definitely grab your attention should it pass you by in the street.
Showcasing the new Fiat 500 in a video posted on YouTube (the launch was supposed to take place at the Geneva Motor Show but the event has been canceled over the coronavirus outbreak), top Fiat executive Olivier Francois notes that with vehicle sound alerts it’s “quite hard to do something original,” before demonstrating the fact with some audio clips from electric vehicles made by other automakers.
“A sea of sameness,” Francois declares in response to the clips, which all featured a similar sound that might make you wonder if a small spaceship is coming up behind you rather than a car.
The Fiat 500, on the other hand, takes acoustic alerts to the next level, cranking up the sound of an entire orchestra.
“Hear that?” Francois says after the Fiat 500 glides past sounding, well, like someone’s playing a tune on the car stereo.
The Fiat executive claims that it’s the only vehicle with an acoustic alert that plays a melody — in this case Amarcord by Nino Rota — adding that the company wants to offer drivers a selection of tunes to choose from. Bohemian Rhapsody probably won’t be an option.
Warming to his theme, Francois says of the Fiat 500’s alert: “It’s not the voice of a computer, it is the voice of the Italian creative spirit.”
Check it out below:
Sadly, having struggled to make it in the American market, the new Fiat 500 won’t be coming to the U.S. But maybe other automakers selling cars here will be inspired to create more pleasing tunes for their own acoustic alerts.
The alerts become mandatory for all new electric cars and hybrids in the U.S. starting this fall. The audio will need to play when the vehicle is traveling slower than 19 mph. At faster speeds, the alert will fade out as tire noise and wind resistance will be enough to signal the vehicle’s presence.
There’s still some discussion about whether to allow automakers in the U.S. market to fit their electric vehicles with several different alerts rather than just one. Tesla boss Elon Musk is clearly hoping for the freedom to get creative with his own range of electric cars.
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