When Nissan revealed its IMx autonomous electric SUV concept at the Tokyo Motor Show, it not only gave us a clue as to what the brand’s future vehicles will look like, but also what they’ll sound like.
The IMx is the first car to feature Nissan’s EV “Canto” (Latin for I sing) sound, designed to replace the mechanical soundtrack missing from electric cars, which can move nearly silently at low speeds.
Naturally, that quiet is a problem for anyone with a vision impairment who relies on their sense of hearing to warn them of dangers like moving vehicles.
Nissan has taken a musical approach, creating a sound that increases in pitch as the car accelerates and drops to a lower tone when the driver slows down. There will also be a specific sound used to indicate when the car is backing up.
Back in 2010, the American Council of the Blind successfully lobbied the U.S. government to enact legislation, called the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, requiring electric vehicles to produce a sound at speeds between 20 and 30 km/h, depending on local regulations.
Such regulations, and the sounds they will mandate, are expected to eliminate about 2,400 pedestrian injuries a year in the U.S. alone.
It wasn’t until 2016 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) drew up regulations for electric vehicle noises, which are set to go into effect in 2019.
But Nissan is the first car manufacturer to preview how it will address such regulations in a variety of jurisdictions.