Pedestrian Alert for Electric Cars/Tesla!!

Pedestrian Alert for Electric Cars/Tesla!!

I am a sports car enthusiast and actually admire the Tesla models and after today, I am now a proponent of pedestrian safety with electric cars.

Today after stepping out of a Starbucks in Orinda and stopping in front of the crosswalk which had a parked Tesla next to the cross-walk, the driver (a professor) apparently didn't see me while he was parked in front of a cross-walk and after walking halfway past his car at this point, the driver pulled out quickly enough to not see me in front of his car and hit me hard enough to knock me to the ground in the crosswalk. I had no idea if his car was running or not. Thankfully I only suffered a painful knee injury, coffee and dirt stains on my clothes and an explanation to my boss why I was late and limping. It could have been much worse and thankfully it was not.

Please Tesla, a pedestrian's life should not be put at risk and be given the responsibility to know if the Tesla is running or not. We are not operating the car and we cannot hear the car when it is operating. If parking garages and equipment trucks, etc have pedestrian alerts, why shouldn't a silent electric car that cannot be heard have one??

I see this request has been a debate for years and legislation is looking to step in because manufacturers haven't yet. A person's life is more important than a car - period!

ian | 19 février 2014

I'm so sorry for your injury. That's not acceptable.

However, I disagree it was the silence of the car at fault. It sounds to me like it was the drivers fault for not making sure the road was clear before moving. Many new and especially luxury automobiles are nearly silent when parked and idling so this could have happened with any number of brands/models.

I hope you're not permanently injured and heal up quickly.


eltonf | 19 février 2014

Sorry about your injury. Unfortunately this was 100% driver error as goneskiian stated. It would be different if you walked in front of an already moving car because you didn't hear it coming.

I would be ok with some sort of safety alert as long as it only worked at low speeds and only at public places where the owner has requested it. Maybe some sort of location based technology that tells the car when it should activate the alert.

jbrowning1 | 19 février 2014

I to disagree with your reason of being hit. This was driver error not the fact the car was quiet. Let's also look into every hybrid car they too go into quiet mode when slow speeds or stopped. So your request would have to go to many more cars than tesla. Remember hybrid is part electric.

Timo | 19 février 2014

I agree with comments before mine. If the car had an ICE would you have heard it? Modern cars are really silent when idling. Even if you had heard it would it had stopped you from stepping in front of it (you said it was cross-walk)? Would you have been able to duck the car if you had known that it was running?

This was driver error. A bad driver error. It could have been a lot worse.

There could be pedestrian alert inside the car though. Something to warn the driver that road is blocked. Smart co-pilot of some sort, with next step being fully autonomous robot driver Demolition Man style.

Maybe in future.

Skotty | 19 février 2014

Perhaps you should have had your own noisemaker to warn drivers of your presence. If you will agree to wear a noisemaker every time you leave a building, maybe I will consider adding one to my car.

bent | 20 février 2014

In the auto-driving auto of the future the car will detect a pedestrian in front and refuse to accelerate into him. Musk seems to be promising us this sort of thing so stay tuned. :-)

DTsea | 20 février 2014

volvo already has pedestrian detection and autostop.

NumberOne | 20 février 2014

The people/object detection equipment will be much better than a noise maker, which will probably not only be annoying to owners, who want a quite car, but also to pedestrians. That will play right into the hands of ICE dealers and manufacturers who do not want people to go electric. Rather than making noise, all cars should have sensors that will alert you if there is something in your path.

Even my F150 with a V8 is so quiet that one can barely tell the engine is running. This is especially true if there are other vehicles nearby. Whenever I walk past cars in a parking lot, I look to see if there are people in cars, because some drivers just start going without looking. The backup sensor lets you know someone is close, because it makes an appropriate sound

Homebrook | 20 février 2014

Let's not blame the car for what the driver did. Let's not blame a gun for what the gun owner did. Let's not blame alcohol for what the drinker did. Let's not blame drugs for what the drug taker did. If we ever fail to do that, we are in a world of hurt.

Now Tesla may, indeed, decide to put in a low speed warning for pedestrians, but that does not absolve the driver, or make Tesla responsible for his inattentive actions. If Tesla were to make such a modification in its cars, it would simply be Tesla seeking to make its cars more attractive to the buyer, not an admission of guilt or responsibility for your unfortunate injury, which can only be laid at the feet of the driver.

gdubcobra1 | 20 février 2014

Maybe he wanted to hit you. How many times people have their face in their phones, books, newspapers while walking around. Or listing to music in the worst places and have the nerve to get mad when bad things happen. Its always the other guys fault.

jordanrichard | 20 février 2014

Like others, I am sorry to hear that this happened to you. I once almost got run over by a Prius that was backing up. Because of the clear/chrome rear light clusters they put on those cars and the sun was sun was shinning on it, I did not see the back up lights. Most of the fault falls on the driver for not looking backwards as he was backing up. Since I didn't see the lights and didn't hear anything, my focus stayed on where I was heading. Fortunately my daughter saw the car moving and pulled me out of the way.

With that said, I don't want my MS quacking, beeping, whistling or what ever sound, as I am driving slowly in the parking lot. If you are walking through a parking lot full of cars, it's on you to be on the look out for moving cars, just as it's up to driver to be on the look out for pedestrians.

Iowa92x | 20 février 2014

I thought there was a rule that electric cars had to emit a sound when speed is less than x to give pedestrians a heads up? The Nissan LEAF does.

jordanrichard | 20 février 2014

Also, a tell tale sign that the Tesla was "running" would be the head lights being on. Just like most modern cars that have DRLs.

GeekEV | 20 février 2014

@Iowa92x - That's not yet law here in the US. It's been talked about for years, but it's not here yet. Nissan was being proactive by adding it.

ebarneyr | 21 février 2014

I have both a Fisker Karma( which has given me little trouble as I got one of the last ones made in June/July 2012 in Blue) AND a TeslaS Per.+(actually I gave it to my wife for Christmas...and she loves it). I really like both cars! The Karma has an electric pedestrian warning sound at low speeds named "Tron" which is not objectionable at all and helps in many situations. Not sure in your instance if it would have given you enough warning for the Karma has to be moving and you may have been too close to get another warning. However, it does seem to help at intersections when say a blind person( who has acute hearing) is trying to cross. Tron cuts off when the Karma is going fast enough such that tire noise is audible to the blind . I was surprised our Tesla did not have its own "Tron" sound and would like such a sound on it as on the Karma.

jordanrichard | 21 février 2014

If people and drivers did what they are supposed to do, which is to pay attention to one's surroundings, then none of this would be needed. Just like all these driving aids like lane departure, this isn't solving anything, it's only further enabling one to be more complacent and less cognitive about what they are doing.

As I mentioned above, I too was in a simular situation and it was partly my fault. I am owning up to that. My daughter saw the car backing up, I didn't because I was focusing on something else. Fortuantely I didn't get hit and the car was moving slowly.

Webcrawler | 21 février 2014

Many ICE cars are as quite as the Tesla so there is no need to single them out...

Brian H | 22 février 2014


Haven't pedestrians learned not to expect engine sounds yet? Tire noise is far more reliable at low speeds, and at high speeds sound is generally too late to the party.

alanwwebb | 22 février 2014

We used a dB meter to test a Tesla against four ICE cars at 25 and 35 miles an hour and found no noticeable difference.

Only under hard acceleration were ICE cars noisier.

MAXXX Q | 22 février 2014

Regardless of who is at fault, this is still remains a potential liability issue for Tesla. However, it can be remedied with sensors-beeps to warn drivers/pedestrians. I really don't want any potential class-action liability suits affecting my stock.

Mike T | 22 février 2014

@Brian H
Unfortunately people are clearly not used to quiet vehicles yet, but it's only a matter of time. It's for this exact reason I am not ready to switch to electric motorcycles. Less noise pollution is indeed a very good thing.

grega | 22 février 2014

Yes drivers should be paying attention. But until drivers are perfect, it's useful to have subtle cues to help drivers and pedestrians be more aware and thus safer.

Annoying sounds are totally unnecessary though. As long as it's audible people will unconsciously or consciously respond. Forcing people to notice something only works if it's not busy, and in those calm situations we probably see everything anyway. Consciously checking everything going on around you is more likely to decrease safety if that number is too high.

Captain_Zap | 22 février 2014

We need more driver's ed in school including defensive driving. Those budgets were slashed and our communities are paying for it now.

I'm not in favor of noise pollution. Dozens of cars in a garage, or hundreds in a city making noise would just be confusing.

People would start filtering out the noise and ignoring it just like they ignore back up beepers now.

Besides, my gas car was just as quiet. I frequently wondered if it was running.

jordanrichard | 23 février 2014

When I walk through a parking lot and I passed this onto my kids when they were young, I look for reverse lights or at the very least brakes lights.

The problem with waiting for drivers and pedestrians to get better at paying attention, is that with all these electronic aides, there is no reason to get better. Why learn to spell, we have spell check.

Should we outfit bicycles with noise makers too.

I find it funny that large trucks make a beeping noise as they back up, when they tend to have large loud diesel engines. If you can't hear the diesel engine, then you are a nominee for a Darwin award.

Captain_Zap | 23 février 2014

Good point. I have been nearly taken out by a bicycle more than once.

gdubcobra1 | 23 février 2014

@Captain Thanks for the visional of city blocks filled with beeping cars.

Brian H | 23 février 2014

Yeah, one beeping car doesn't "scale" to dozens or hundreds at once.

Brian H | 23 février 2014

Especially since they are likely/certain to use electronically-generated sounds. The ears and brain can't easily detect direction of pure tones; there's not enough waveform complexity and information for the brain to match "peaks". Ever notice how hard it is to locate a hidden ringing phone etc.? Even cats have trouble.

Timo | 24 février 2014

@jordanrichard; "I find it funny that large trucks make a beeping noise as they back up, when they tend to have large loud diesel engines. If you can't hear the diesel engine, then you are a nominee for a Darwin award."

For large cars with no visibility behind them hearing the engine is not enough because you don't know what it might do next. Back up beep is reasonable warning because driver doesn't see you and might start backing up when you are straight behind the vehicle.

However for driving slowly forward does not warrant beeping noise because driver can see you. Simple solution to not get driven over by slow-moving BEV is to driver simply not drive over you. Car like Model S with 0-60 in four seconds doesn't give you much advance warning even with beep if the driver doesn't look around. That's like "beep - bump", way faster than you can react.

That said I think there should be some "gentle warning" horn in silent electric cars instead of fog horn that blasts your eardrums to your brains.

rick | 24 février 2014

I think this is so much of a problem that I put a backup beeper on my car that runs all the time, beep, beep, beep, beep. Loud enough that it can be heard for nearly a block. I do not want stupid pedestrians not knowing where I am.

grega | 24 février 2014

I don't think it's possible for a regulation to add a sound effectively.

There IS a benefit to having a sound, but you want a sound that people would say "why do you need that, it's so quiet you can barely hear it, that wouldn't work". A very subtle sound will be enough to get people to turn their head. Even better if the car could alter volume based on context and surrounding sounds.

What's a nice green sound?

Anyway as I said… regulation couldn't do it. They'd demand something annoying for electric cars, wrong pitch for getting direction etc - and not worry about incredibly quiet petrol cars.

Timo | 24 février 2014

"A very subtle sound will be enough to get people to turn their head"

Something primordial? A wolf howl/large feline growl mixed with toddler cry? Guarantee to turn heads, even when not loud.

grega | 24 février 2014

Subtle is powerful. Purring lion …?

As long as people don't get to select their sound like a ringtone.

holidayday | 24 février 2014

I vote for the sounds the Jetson's car makes.

Skotty | 24 février 2014

I'm perfectly fine with alert systems that are optional, advanced special-case directional, or non-audible (requiring pedestrian to have accessory to hear the alert). But the always on at low speeds sound non-optional system that people usually discuss is a terrible shotgun approach idea that serves a tiny fraction of situations while being a disservice to everything and everyone else.

NumberOne | 24 février 2014

I want to get a fog horn such as what one might find on a large ship, and activate it exclusively when I see pedestrians or other motorists that are in la-la land. Just kidding. People really do not pay enough attention to their surroundings. Everyone seems engrossed in their smartphones etc. I often notice both pedestrians and motorists with headphones. The noise any vehicle produces would probably not be sufficient to get the attention of such people. All drivers, cyclists and pedestrians need to be more aware of what is around them and stop blaming others. Most accidents can be avoided if only one party is alert. Imagine what it would be like if everyone paid attention to their surroundings.

PapaSmurf | 24 février 2014

If Tesla is eventually forced to install some sort of low speed artificial sound, I fully intend to disable or break the speaker causing that sound. I find the entire concept to be silly and worth violating.

I will be sure to post a "How To" videos on YouTube for any owner to disable the government mandated idiot noises.

Rocky_H | 24 février 2014

I'll just weigh in with a simple distinction. The car noise devices are really only useful in "both moving" types of situations. The driver and the pedestrian are coming toward an intersecting point, looking ahead, and don't notice the other coming in from a side direction. In this case, where you are already in front of a stopped car, and the driver makes the decision to start moving at that point when you are directly in front of his car... Yeah, that's just a horrible driver decision.

Iowa92x | 24 février 2014

Nissan LEAF does it right, makes a subtle multi-tone electronic noise below certain speeds in forward and reverse. They consulted with hard-of-hearing organizations and sound experts to tune for optimal warning for pedestrians without annoying the driver.

Old news:

blue adept | 25 février 2014

Yet another incident of "driver error" due to their lack of situational/environmental awareness.

It doesn't really matter one way or another whether you're behind the wheel of an EV, an ICE vehicle, on a motorbike, an e-bike, or even pushing pedals on a bicycle, as YOU'RE the one operating some form of motorized/mechanized transportation and are charged with the duty of the responsible operation of such vehicle as a result, a responsibility that includes and is predisposed upon awareness of the environment in which you are traveling.

Timo | 25 février 2014

PapaSmurf +1000
Rocky_H, agreed fully. This was my point too with my first post. If car is just sitting there waiting for you to go in front of it you would need some sort of brain implant to telepathically know that driver is about to run you over in order to avoid collision, sound or not sound.

NumberOne | 25 février 2014

Back to what I said before about people not paying attention. Someone backed into me to today as I was waiting in a pickup line at my kids' (plural possessive before I am corrected) school. I know the person and know the individual to be very nice. The point is, looking in all mirrors and possibly turning one's head would have avoided this. I tried to back out of the way, but could not do it in time. Reverse sensors should be standard on all cars.

grega | 25 février 2014

@LeonardD. Damn.
Almost happened to me an hour ago. An SUV stopped suddenly in the middle of turning across an intersection and its reverse lights came on, no apparent reason. The car in front was half way turned too and its reverse lights came on a second later. I was still at the stop sign, and decided to back up and give them room - used my mirrors and looked over my shoulder as I hit it into reverse, and as I turned back I saw that if I hadn't done that the car would have hit me.

Driver attention is important. And I just read all the assistance provided by the Ford Kuga, which will help avoid these problems AND also allow drivers to be more complacent unfortunately. But I do think driver assistance will have to happen on all vehicles as an extra safety feature.

In some ways (to bring it back on topic!) the sound of a car is a 'feature' - it provides an extra source of information to pedestrians, that they can use for their own safety. Done badly it won't really help pedestrians (we don't need more noise, like we have more and more safety signs), but absence of sound is at the very least a small loss for safety.

Brian H | 26 février 2014

Actually, the Leaf solution, a tone that isn't offensive and operates only up to about 20 mph, and a gentle beep in reverse, seems reasonable. For all cars.

Timo | 26 février 2014

Forward noisemakers make no sense. You, the driver, have eyes, use them.

Brian H | 26 février 2014

Hey, Timo, OT;
Got a link to a "40 maps" site; Map #39 is of Europe showing literal translations of Chinese names for countries. Finland is "Orchid Fragrance"! #7 is most common surname. ("Korhonen" for Finland. Who knew?)

#8 is global countries by side of road they drive on.

To embiggen any particular map you apparently have to rt-click, "View Image", and then left-click.

Timo | 26 février 2014

The definition of "invaded" in map 3 is extremely loose. Finland definitely has not been invaded ever by any country, and definitely not by England. By those definitions Finland has also invaded pretty much every country in the world (definitions are so loose that you can "invade" some country pretty much by accident).

Nice maps though, even that they are made more or less tongue in the cheek.

Iowa92x | 26 février 2014

Brian, LEAF is correct, Leaf is incorrect. :-)

carlgo | 26 février 2014

It seems clear that soon all new cars will have crash avoidance systems and that will include automatic braking for pedestrians. I also think that in time there will not just be auto braking, but auto swerving to where the computer that controls this makes a decision in an instant of which combination of braking and steering direction is best.

Not quite autonomous driving, but easier to implement as it would work in every location and not need infrastructure.

I actually see a future where car accidents and injuries are quite rare.

Then we can both text and cook lunch, and of course drink, while driving.

loefvinc | 26 février 2014

1) I am not a proponent of mandating that EVs make noise at low speed. With as quiet as most new cars are why single out EVs.
2) Noted above that the Leaf has a tone when below 20 MPH. Can't wait for lots of EVs with that model tied up together in a Chicago traffic jam.
3) If they make me have my car make noise, I choose the Jetson's.