for Soundscape Awareness and Protection

359 - 1985 Wallace Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6R 4H4 Phone (604) 222-0207
Web Site: www.quiet.org E-mail: info@quiet.org Charitable Registration BN: 11815 4680 RR 0001


Fall 2015

Staying the course with a challenging campaign

by Jeanine Botta

As with my January update, there is good news and bad news from the Silence the Horns project. Along with project co-founder Cullen Ruff, I'd been encouraged by three automakers' decision to transition away from horn-based alerts. Back in January, we did not know if some automakers would adopt the "honk from your smartphone" mobile app that others had adopted. Now we've learned that more automakers have been rolling out the technology. And thanks to further industry collaboration with Apple and Google, owners can honk a car's horn from a wristwatch.

NoSome apps enable remote horn honking from a specific distance. Others enable honking from any geographic location to any other place if connectivity exists in both places. While we think remote honking from any distance creates a safety hazard and noise pollution, we can understand the rationale of using noise to locate a car in a parking lot. But we don't understand the rationale for honking a car's horn on the other side of the planet, and could not determine what led to the development of that technology. It was discouraging to learn that automakers whose cars don't have horn-based alerts for locking are adopting horn honking infotainment systems. Some brands and models do not use noise with the technology. The Toyota Entune and the Lexus Enform mobile apps use silent GPS car locating systems.

Equally concerning is the adoption of horn honking alerts that have replaced quieter warning chimes in some cars, and use of horn honking as status indication with electric battery charge. We have followed this largely in online forums where Ford, Volt, and Cadillac owners have posted complaints, and we've communicated with a few owners and rental car users to determine whether they have complained directly to automakers or to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

We have stopped asking our supporters to write to automakers, although we do not discourage anyone from doing so. We are focussing on communicating with federal agencies, legislators, and consumer advocacy and protection agencies. Present and some past action alerts can be found at www.silencethehorns.org/write.html and requests for action alerts can be sent to us at info@silencethehorns.org. We ask that writers focus on safety as much as on noise.

In response to our Consumer Reports letter drive, the magazine published an online survey and reported in the magazine and online in April about the survey's findings (please see URLs following this article on page 2) Cullen and I met with a policy analyst at Consumers Union in July and received much valued feedback about our work so far and our next steps.

Staying the course with a challenging campaign has not been easy. People who consistently stick with a noise-related project are rare. We cannot blame those who give up in frustration, and we admire those who have been committed for decades. A big challenge is that noise, safety, public health, and related disciplines often function within silos. One of our goals is to frame newer vehicle noise as a concern within contemporary public health discourse, and to integrate such noise within discussion of walk-ability, livable streets, and safe streets.

To stay motivated - and since environmental noise interests me far beyond one project - I focus on related disciplines and topics, including acoustic ecology, soundscapes, urban planning, transportation, automotive history, and auto industry news. I'm inspired by the ways in which others are able to break down silos, to work across disciplines, to integrate and collaborate, bringing disparate struggles together and seeing how that process works.

I was inspired in this way by a soundscape presentation that was given at the Acoustical Society of America spring meeting in Pittsburgh.

continued on page 2...

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