The Prius might be good for the earth, but it’s a bane to many pedestrians and bicyclists because it has an almost-silent engine. Many people (especially the blind) have been concerned about accidents — if you don’t hear the car coming, how are you supposed to get out of the way? Pedestrian lobbyists even introduced a bill — that was passed last year — that requires the government to conduct studies on just how dangerous silent electric vehicles are and how to address the problem. Well, Toyota has decided to test their own solution — all next-generation Prius vehicles sold in Japan will now come with an optional sound package. For 12,600 yen (or $148) you can protect pedestrians around you with an add-on that makes your engine sound like a real gas guzzler.
Toyota hasn’t announced any plans for expansion of the program overseas, but they’re hoping that the option will catch on in Japan where pedestrian fatalities are high. The tiny windy streets of the country are already a dangerous place for walkers, bicyclists and vehicles to exist together — introduce a silent car and you’ve got a recipe for traffic accidents. The Japanese government issued guidelines in January addressing the silent nature of electric vehicles and Toyota promptly responded with this new option.
The fact that this is an optional enhancement strikes us as a bit strange — up front, the $148 you throw down for your car to make a little buzzing sound isn’t going to do much for you. Granted, forward thinkers will realize that it makes their car safer, but those looking to save some cash might shy away from the added feature. I suppose we’ll just have to wait for the 2011 Prius to hit the streets in Japan to see how much altruistic drivers are willing to spend to possibly save a pedestrian.