Geodog on how the Prius has become the new Volvo, and the danger to bicyclists and pedestrians of having a lot of silent cars on the road (owners say the car is “stealth mode” when runnning on battery power):
With the Prius, you don’t get any warning — the car literally sneaks up on you. After nearly being run over several times in the last month, and again this night on the way back from the Berkeley Cybersalon, I did a little research and turned up quite a few mentions of this problem, the scariest from a blind person’s perspective … the Toyota engineers need to find a way to make the car nosier, even if it involves something as silly as recordings of internal combustion engine noises that the car plays through an external speaker when the car is in battery mode.
While I’ve certainly noticed the local upwelling of Pria (is that a legitimate pluralization? probably not), I personally haven’t had close calls with them. But then I haven’t been biking as much lately due to knee problems. I think the problem is offset by the fact that the kind of person who buys a Prius is likely to be a more considerate driver to begin with. I have a lot more close calls with drivers of SUVs, and with people talking on cell phones (regardless the model of car). Remember too that all cars have become much more quiet in the past decade — it’s gotten to the point that a vehicle from the 1970s seems loud in contrast.