The unanticipated side-effects generated by a cutting-edge safety feature of the Jaguar’s new I-Pace has forced engineers back to the drawing board. The integrated AVAS (Audible Vehicle Alert System) is hard-wired into the computer logic—what it is, in theory, is a revolutionary safety feature; in practice—testing showed it only served to make the I-Pace more dangerous.
The system is basically nothing more than an audible noise generated by the electric vehicle to warn sensory-impaired pedestrians of the silent danger that may lurk nearby during low-speed vehicle operation (when it is nearly silent). The principle is not new; various forms of the system have been used on cars like the Nissan Leaf dating back to at least 2010. However, according to CNet, the Jaguar’s version of the AVAS does something no other system has been able to manage, its distracting people from the danger it was intended to warn people about.
Instead of warning nearby pedestrians of the danger of an automobile, the AVAS actually prompted people to look up into the sky in search of the origin of the alien sound (no pun intended). The reason focus was directed skyward was immediately identifiable and candidly humorous; people were looking for a flying craft – drone or otherwise – in the nearby aerial proximity. Notwithstanding the acclimation humans have been experiencing with drones, it’s unlikely drones are the learned logic loop executing the lookup trigger as the noise was purposely intended to sound like something futuristic by the designers.
By futuristic, the British carmaker means a “sci-fi inspired spacecraft.” The sound has since been replaced with a more homogenous noise to our present, non-fiction reality but despite the initial hit and miss from the luxury line, an early course correction is likely almost as wise a move as the decision to implement it in the first place. Although regulation regarding EV warning sounds are far from uniform by a regulatory standpoint, the issue of the near-silent drivetrain characteristics of today’s electric vehicles is going to require some acclimating to by both legislative bodies in countries that EVs operate as well as the general populous that cohabitates with them.
Jaguar’s system is set to deactivate upon reaching a speed of 12 MPH while the Chevy Volt, with its similarly-equipped system, disables at 20 MPH indicating there are varying safety thresholds between different manufactures although it seems unanimous that this issue should be addressed before it starts racking up a body count. Expect forward-thinking innovations like this to become more commonplace as the world we live in evolves through the means we power it by.