Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Silent cities?

There have been suggestions that electric cars might need to have artificial noise generators to warn pedestrians and cyclists, who rely to a great extent on auditory cues, of their approach. See for example the article of 4 Dec 2008 obtained by searching for "noise vehicle" on .

It has occurred to me to ask why not require vehicles to be silent while putting the onus on the drivers to avoid pedestrians and cyclists. The former, if universal, would bring an unimaginable improvement to the quality of life, and not only in cities, because these days many rural areas are as noisy. The latter -- strict liability -- would force motorists to lower their speeds by enough to make the streets safe for all.

All surface transport vehicles -- lorries, buses, trains and boats -- would be required to install electric engines. Trains and trolleybuses would run under wires as now, but could also take power to batteries while on the move and thereby run on unwired sections. Solar power from the deserts would be used to ensure that this power was emission-free. Low noise surfaces would be installed on major highways where motorists would be able to go fast. Aviation, where noise is probably inevitable, would be tightly constrained in favour of high speed trains and completely outlawed during the normal hours of sleep.

Private vehicles would be subject to a mileage tax in addition to an energy tax (which would be returned to the providers of renewable electricity).

There would be problems with people with limited vision, but given that Monderman stated that he thought people should be able to cross the road walking backwards (i.e. with no forward vision) I think these should be soluble. Are there any other problems which would make this vision unfeasible?

Simon Norton
Cambridge, UK

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