The sound of spaceships from science fiction films may soon blare out in the streets to stop pedestrians being run over by the new breed of electric cars.
Worried that battery-powered vehicles could become silent killers as they glide noiselessly along the road, the European Commission plans to introduce warning sounds. Not content with the "white noise" of an engine, some car brands could plump for their own signature sound akin to the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.
The only stipulation is a minimum volume to prevent people -- especially blind or partially-sighted pedestrians -- unwittingly stepping out in front of the cars.
Matthew Reed from Lotus Engineering told Sky News Online how the new Evora 414E Hybrid uses a "futuristic sound a bit like Star Wars."
Other noise options on the car mimic the sound of powerful engines, not least because it is "disconcerting for drivers to accelerate and not hear anything."
To limit disturbance, the sound would only be fired in the direction the car is moving.
Mr Reed added: "The sound beam comes from a speaker and is very directional -- there is no unnecessary noise like you get in a normal car, such as the exhaust."
But Neil Butcher, who is leading a government-sponsored trial of electric vehicles in the West Midlands, has called it a "retrograde step" and said more effort should be put into education.
According to Mr Butcher, drivers of electric cars "become more alert" and are on the lookout for hazards. He told Sky News Online, "You are almost waiting for people to step out in front of you.
"We have a chance to reduce noise levels on our streets and we should take it. If we put noise in now we'll never get rid of it."
Testing of a variety of sounds -- including science fiction noises -- is under way at Warwick University in conjunction with electric vehicle makers.
Professor Paul Jennings from the trial team told The Times: "We need to find noises which alert people without causing the annoyance people already feel when they hear the bleeping sounds of reversing trucks."
The plan is also being considered in the U.S. and Japan.