Imagine a city dominated by the sounds of birds chirping and bicycle bells
Motors revving, drivers honking, car alarms ringing, bus brakes screeching… sound familiar? Modern cities are becoming louder and louder, and noise pollution is a growing environmental concern.
Prolonged exposure to noise can lead to serious disturbances, including sleep deprivation, cardiovascular diseases, cognitive impairment and even mental health problems. This, in turn, has a direct impact both on the economy, leading to a loss of productivity, and naturally on health care systems.
In Europe, where the main culprit is road traffic, an estimated 125 million individuals are affected by noise greater than 55 decibels (dB), while 37 million suffer noise levels above 65 dB, comparable to that of a vacuum cleaner.
The good news is that while the industrial revolution also introduced “noise revolution” into daily urban life, new legislation in conjunction with technological innovation and the telematics revolution are set to turn down the volume knob of our cities.
Electrical motors are already commercially available and have resolved a series of pollution issues. They clearly make less noise, but also protect the environment and allow for greater fuel efficiency. Moreover, car horns and sirens could be far softer, if they did not have to drown out the sound of traffic.
Indeed, another interesting concept is that of smart sirens. Today, when an ambulance or police car blares its siren, it is heard for hundreds of metres in all directions, but in the future, sirens could be replaced by telematics alerts addressed directly to the cars ahead. Indeed, self-driving cars could automatically stop or move aside to allow emergency vehicles to pass by swiftly. Similarly, pedestrians could be alerted via smartwatch or smartphone alerts.
A further aid to our sprawling cities will come from noise cancellation and control technology. Active noise control, a technology that is currently used in high quality noise cancelling headphones, isolates the listener from outside noise by emitting a sound wave with a wavelength opposite to that of the incoming noise. The main problem with this technology, however, is that at present this type of technology is suited to constant noise sources, rather than abrupt car honks or screeching brakes.
A further recipe for noise reduction will come from the promise of drones as delivery vehicles, reducing the noise produced by vans in our cities, whilst also clearing up roads and reducing congestion problems.
For further information:
- Octo – What We Do
- Delivery Robots Are Ready for Service
- Vehicle Insurance in the Era of Autonomous Vehicles