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5 Things You Didn't Know About Automotive Testing


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Tests to Cease Electric Cars' Silent Running
The Nissan LEAF, a 100 percent electric, zero-emission car, is seen at the LA Auto Show on Nov. 17, 2010, in Los Angeles.
The Nissan LEAF, a 100 percent electric, zero-emission car, is seen at the LA Auto Show on Nov. 17, 2010, in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Reed Saxon

You know how electric cars are barely audible when they're puttering around at low speed? And you know how you sometimes rely on the sound of a car or truck to determine how close it is or what direction it's coming from?

Well, the fact that electric vehicles are so quiet has many people worried about potential carnage in the streets as the vehicles gain in popularity. They're worried about a wave of pedestrian injuries and perhaps fatalities, because the quiet of electrics makes them harder to recognize as hazards.

For that reason, testing is taking place for artificial sounds that can be added to electric vehicles -- simply to make them louder. Of course one of the things that make electric vehicles special is the fact they don't have the sound of internal combustion vehicles. No matter how refined, the internal combustion engine is merely a series of controlled explosions. Electrics, however, are a completely different technology and almost demand their own signature sound.

Researchers at Warwick University in England are experimenting with an electric van specially equipped to emit a number of fake but plausible noises for electrics. Part of the testing includes driving the van around the Warwick campus and asking the opinion of people in the vicinity. At the time of this writing, you could even take an online immersive survey (complete with 3-D animation and van sounds).

Is car testing reserved for the driving elite, those skilled pilots able to navigate twisting closed courses at breakneck speeds? Or need you be a clipboard-wielding technician able to measure every technical quirk of the car in question? The answer might surprise you.


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