The car horn is meant as a safety device—something for emergencies. But, of course, drivers use it in many more situations than that: to get other cars to move (milliseconds after lights have turned green), or simply to vent.
Noise is part of living in any city. But you might argue this slippage in the horn’s function is quite serious. Constant honking puts citizens on edge, wakes people up when they could be sleeping, and has a direct bearing on health.
The problem is that honking is hard to stop, because it’s almost reflexive, and one honk leads to another. Plus, cities have other priorities. This year, New York decided to take down all its "Don’t Honk" signs, as part of a street de-cluttering campaign. Implicitly, it said honking was too difficult to stop (though, officially, fines remain in place).
In India, honking is even worse than in the U.S. But at least in the new-new world, people aren’t so passive amid problems. Two designers from Mumbai have come up with a solution they say could reduce noise dramatically.
The device is a simple light on the dashboard that flashes and beeps after you reach for the center of the wheel. To stop it, you need to reach over and press it. As the video explains, the idea is to reconnect drivers with the noise they’re making. And it appears to work. In a six-month test with 30 drivers, the devices reduced honking by 61%. "Pressing the button made the driver more conscious," says the video’s narrator.
The creators, Anand Damani and Mayur Tekchandaney, are now trying to persuade car-makers to introduce the gadget in future models. That may be a hard sell, given that drivers are sure to find the beeping annoying. Still, the experiment does seem to prove a point: that if we’re to do something about the problem, the solution will probably come inside the car, rather than outside. As New York shows, signs are too easy to ignore.