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We may soon look back at cell-phone ringtones as just the beginning. The advent of ultra-quiet electric cars could create a business for auto tones. Project Better Place, a Palo Alto (Calif.) electric-vehicle startup founded by Shai Agassi, a former top executive at German software company SAP, has just copyrighted the Drivetones brand, according to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport magazine. Electric vehicles make almost no noise. So to avoid running over bicyclists and pedestrians accustomed to hearing an approaching car, they’ll need some artificial vroom, Agassi says. (Advocates for the blind have already expressed concern about the possible dangers of such silent fleets.)
The Drivetones “will be downloaded into the car, controlled through the dashboard, and come in many varieties,” Agassi told BusinessWeek. He’s betting that people will want to customize the sounds of their electric wheels. And if the ringing of today’s cell phones is any guide, he concedes, “tones will range from the sublime to the stupid.”