It’s widely known that we’re heavily gearing towards hybrids and EVs for the sake of ecology and keeping our damaged planet alive as much as we can. But, it’s also not a secret that zero-emission cars lack something important; sound. That can often prove to be a hazard for pedestrians, especially the old, blind and children. For that very unlucky downside of green cars, manufacturers are trying to find a way to announce the presence of their cars while on the road. For that reason, Jaguar introduced their highly advanced AVAS System (Audible Vehicle Alert System), destined to be fitted to the company’s first EV, the Jaguar I-PACE.

There have been attempts in the past of using computer-generated sounds to mimic the noise a fossil fueled car makes during its normal operation.

However, that proved to be highly unlikely to reach production as the sounds were quite dull and well, electronic. There was no soul and no emotion present, making the whole thing rather pointless.

No More Sound Of Silence With The AVAS System

The whole reason behind the labor-intensive AVAS System project was to create something that would meet and exceed not only the EU legislation for 2019, by which all EVs sold from that year and onwards are mandated to have a system similar to Jaguar’s AVAS System but global legislations concerning the silence of electric vehicles.

Jaguar AVAS System Lab
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At first, the idea was to create sci-fi like sounds, but sadly that went bust as people’s natural reflex assumed it was a spacecraft. Numerous sounds were simulated in an abundance of environments in order to find something that would make the presence of the I-PACE instantly known. Finally, four years after their first try, Jaguar’s team found their go-to sound.

The AVAS System uses a speaker mounted behind the trademark Jaguar front grille, which generates the hard-coded sound while the I-PACE is under 12 mph. Once emitted, the sound can be heard in all directions, but you, the driver, can’t hear it.

The system is a clever bit of kit. As you speed up from a standstill, the pitch and volume of the sound go up. Turning the vehicle affects the sound the same way as accelerating, while reverse gives out an extra tone to denote the change of direction.

The speed below which the sound is heard is not random. It’s carefully chosen by the people that introduced the EU legislation to the World for a good reason. Below the mentioned speed, the car’s tires don’t produce adequate levels of noise to be heard, making the car literally silent and dangerous. Therefore, the need for a sound came about.

The First Of It’s Kind

The initiative for creating the system, at least for the one used on the Jaguar I-PACE, came from UK’s Guide Dogs for the Blind charity. John Welsman, Policy Business Partner(Travel & Mobility) at Guide Dogs for the Blind, said:

Guide Dogs campaigned hard to make it compulsory for quiet vehicles to have sound generating systems built in and turned on, including when the vehicle is stationary at a pedestrian crossing. We applaud Jaguar for being the first to launch an EV which meets standards before the new legislation even comes in and look forward to working with the company more in the future.

Jaguar AVAS System Dog
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Iain Suffield, Jaguar Noise, Vibration & Harshness Technical Specialist, said:

The absence of traditional engine noise from electric vehicles creates a problem for vulnerable pedestrians, such as the blind or visually impaired. This is especially true at low speeds in town centers and car parks. We developed the Audible Vehicle Alert System for the I-PACE to ensure the safety of all road users. Our potentially life-saving technology cannot be switched off and as the leading charity for people with sight loss, we are pleased to have the support of Guide Dogs to ensure real people are at the heart of our product testing.

I’m completely on-board with the idea of having such a system on all electric powered or assisted vehicles, as I’ve had a couple of close encounters with their silence. I see no point in having a sound that mimics a car when we can still have the real deal, but the easily distinguishable sound, yes, please. It’s for our sake.