Photo credit: Eslivb licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

It was indeed interesting to read that Professor Susumu Hara of Nagoya University in Japan thought it worthwhile to conduct an experiment that would explore potential stress levels of individuals exposed to flying cars. Professor Hara then became the lead author of a laboratory study that had subjects watch short videos of simulated flying cars in a city while listening to different audio volumes. An EEG device which measures brain activity recorded stress levels of the subjects as they watched the videos. After watching the videos, subjects were asked to complete written questionnaires about their experiences.

Professor Hara reports that the stress levels expressed by the subjects was in line with the volume of the sound–greater stress was reported for higher sound levels and lower stress for lower sound levels. With respect to EEG measurements, when the sound level increased for the first time, the EEG data demonstrated greater stress being experienced by the subjects, but when the sound levels were lowered, the subjects’ EEG stress stayed high. This finding appeared to indicate that subjects were still stressed by the sound levels to which they were exposed and that exposure to noise can have longer lasting effects.

Professor Hara comments that drones and flying cars will bring benefits to the society but asserts that we cannot ignore the noise pollution that comes along with these new vehicles. The article states that we do not know at this time the “optimal sound level for protecting citizens’ health.” The article also emphasizes rightfully that engineers must consider the sound levels associated with flying cars as they grow in demand.

As a long-term researcher concerned with the adverse effects of road, rail, and aircraft noise on the mental and physical health of individuals exposed to these sources of noise, I was extremely pleased to read this study plus the researchers’ insistence that we need to better understand the health consequences of flying cars.