Design & Technology
Honk honk beep beep! Car horns explained August 8th, 2017
The car horn is one of the most elementary and basic tools for communication in a vehicle. Used to warn and notify others of your presence and approach, the horn is a signal that has persisted since before the emergence of automobiles.
The first standard electric car horn was developed in 1910 in England. As more and more motor vehicles started to emerge on the roads, horns became a necessity for warning nearby cars and drivers during traffic congestion.
Vehicle horns in the past were operated by a suspended lever or a spoke – called a horn ring – located on the side of the steering wheel. With more development, the horn was moved to the center of the steering wheel, and the rim blow steering wheel that we see today was born. The relocated horn proved to be much easier to access while driving.
In the past, horns from different automakers each possessed their own distinct sounds and pitch as there were no regulations regarding the device. However, over time, most automobile manufacturers chose standardized tones.
This standardization was mostly intended to ensure safety. If all horn tones were different, wouldn’t drivers have a harder time recognizing the signs and noises meant to call attention or warn of potential danger? As sound variations may undermine the basic function of vehicle horns, very few brands have maintained their own unique multi-tone sound to this day. Most brands now utilize single-tone horns that are tuned to E-flat or C on the musical scale or dual-tones set to a higher F-sharp or A-sharp.
While vehicle horns may be strident and unpleasant at times, they produce a noise that we cannot and should not go without. However, it seems that horns are being excessively overused in large cities and certain countries of the world. It is important to always remember that while the horn is your friend in cases of danger, overusing the device may actually impair road safety. It is important to use horns sparingly as a device to warn and not as a weapon to bully others on the road.