Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted a short video on Sunday morning showing a Model 3 driving by on the screen. But what was unusual about this particular Model 3 was that it appeared to play a recorded voice as it passed, saying: "Well don't just stand there staring. Hop in."
Musk said in the tweet: "Teslas will soon talk to people if you want. This is real."
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Tesla has been adding external speakers to its cars for a while now, as European law states that new electric vehicles must emit a constant noise to alert pedestrians to their presence while the vehicles are reversing, or driving at up to 12 mph.
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In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require all electric and hybrid cars to emit an artificial noise by September this year. The NHTSA's requirements are for the sound to be emitted while driving at up to 19 mph.
Instead of all using the same sounds, each electric car maker has taken it upon themselves to develop a unique noise for their vehicles, in a bid to create a unique character for their specific brand. A Jaguar I-Pace and a Porsche Taycan each sound quite different when heard from the outside, for example.
Tesla's approach here looks to be taking a different course, offering a potential future when spoken messages are then played to alert pedestrians that the car is present.
Beyond this — and given the car in Musk's video actually invited pedestrians to get in — it looks like Tesla's future vision of its cars being used as autonomous taxis could benefit from a system that speaks to pedestrians or potential riders. That way, the driverless Tesla taxi hailed by a customer could identify itself when it arrives at a pick-up, and ask that person to step aboard.
What's more, the industry is currently developing ways for autonomous cars to interact with pedestrians and signal their intentions in lieu of a driver's facial expressions or any other alert such as turning lights. A set of pre-recorded messages could help in this instance, with a self-driving car telling bystanders if it has plans to shift lanes in traffic, or exit and move out of a space in the parking lot.
Another option that could be used for Tesla vehicles to employ voices to scare off any potential vandals. The cars already have a Sentry Mode feature, which uses the vehicle's various driver assistance cameras to record footage if contact with the car is detected while it is parked. Another added step to this feature could be that the car then issues a warning aloud, with its voice, if someone touches the vehicle while it's parked, letting someone know they are being recorded.
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