Imagine that you are driving a car down a narrow road and you see a person unloading groceries from a car trunk.
There are two common options:
- Continue driving: hope the person unloading the car doesn’t walk out into the street
- Honk the horn, to inform the person unloading the car that you are there
The second one is safer, but is considered extremely rude.
Thus, in real-world scenarios, most people will probably politely run over the car-unloading pedestrian rather than honk potentially unnecessarily.
The root problem here is that there is no “polite” way for a driver inform others of their presence. This is also becoming more of a problem as quieter electric cars become more common (so the car engine isn’t generating a “hey nearby people, a car is running” sound at all times).
This was solved ages ago for bicycles with the traditional bicycle bell, which conveys the sentiment “in case you weren’t aware, a bike is passing by!”
The car horn, on the hand, conveys the accusative sentiment “hey, you have committed some major driving error!”
What is needed is the bike-bell equivalent for a car—a “more polite” horn (Figure 1).
Why isn’t this a feature, anyway? It seems like this should have been standard on cars since the mid-1980s.
PROS: Improves public safety and may reduce the number of people run over every year.
CONS: Adds one cent to the manufacturing cost of the steering wheel.