When the original Toyota Prius launched over ten years ago in the U.S. as a nerdy sedan, it wooed many buyers with its low-speed, near-silent operation.
Now the days of the whispering Prius are over, thanks to U.S. legislation requiring every single electric vehicle and hybrid car to fit an active pedestrian alert system -- or in lay terms, a noisemaker.
Needed or not, noisemakers are now part and parcel of every new electric or hybrid design process, with automakers taking some interesting and novel approaches to work out just what virtual noise their cars should make.
Toyota’s answer to the new legislation has been to develop its own noise generation system which every 2012 model hybrid car will get.
Just like every other automaker thus far, Toyota has chosen to create a system which makes a noise which we think is a cross between a spaceship and a car alarm.
Although engineers at Toyota claim the new audible alert system -- which will be fitted to the 2012 Toyota Prius, 2012 Toyota Prius V and 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid -- is recognizable as a car yet also futuristic in order to represent the Prii’s advanced drivetrain, we have to disagree.
Then again, we’ve only got a YouTube video of its Vehicle Proximity Notification System (VPNS) to base that assessment on -- and if we’ve learnt anything from previous examples, the real-world sound of a pedestrian warning system is often a lot more palatable than a video demonstration can be.
There’s no word yet if the VPNS can be turned off by the driver in the same way as the audible alert system in the 2011 Nissan Leaf can, but given how strongly many legislators feel about the dangers posed by quiet electric and hybrid cars we think it’s highly unlikely Toyota will include that feature on its 2012 Prii lineup.
Would you want to buy a Toyota Prius if it made a noise like a deranged spaceship? Watch the video, and let us know your thoughts in the Comments below.