Nissan have introduced a new system that plays an audible sound to warn pedestrians of its silent progress down the street. Called ‘Canto’ which is Latin for ‘I sing’ the sound is designed to provide more information that the hum of tires or a manufactured engine noise. It is hoped that Canto will prevent too many pedestrians walking off sidewalks into the path of EVs until they get used to their presence.
This is an issue we all saw coming. We are all used to listening out for engine noise before we cross the road. The sensible among us will also use our eyes but many don’t bother. It is for this latter group that Canto is being introduced. While some may call it Darwinism at work, protecting people who don’t look is Nissan’s end game here.
Canto has been designed to change pitch and tone depending on what the car is doing. As the car accelerates, the pitch rises and as it brakes, the pitch drops. The tone changes when the car manoeuvres. The system can automatically activate at speed and may or may not have a manual override.
The move is a good one as the lack of sound is a problem that plagues EVs in urban areas. After a hundred years of being conditioned to use sound to detect what is going on around us, the introduction of almost silent motoring has thrown that on its head. While most of us will adapt as we always do, some will not or will take longer.
Canto aims to help with those that take longer to adapt. Here it is in action:
The short video demonstrates what Nissan imagines Canto to sound like. It is a pleasing sound when heard from a single vehicle. I’m not sure what a city full of them will sound like but it certainly won’t be any worse than chugging diesels or big V8s.
The US NHTSA said last year that they were planning to add an audio requirement to hybrids and EVs to help Americans with the adjustment. While our own administration hasn’t said anything, it isn’t unreasonable to think that it may also add a requirement for some kind of audible warning for otherwise silent vehicles.
Nissan EVs are being developed apace but their current range of traditionally-powered vehicles are also advanced.