Advertisement

Needed Or Not, Electric Car Noisemakers Are Going To Be Law

Follow Viknesh

Lotus Safe & Sound noisemaker

Lotus Safe & Sound noisemaker

Enlarge Photo
Although the relative silence of electric cars and hybrids was originally touted as one of their key beneficial attributes, alarmists have been less than enamored with the perceived difficulty involved in hearing one coming, especially advocates of the blind and the seeing impaired.

While critics have said time and time again that no actual data shows a hazard to exist, the alarmists have managed to convince the Senate to vote unanimously in favor of a new bill that would force automakers to install noise generating devices, a.k.a. noisemakers, on all vehicles that can operate without the use of an internal combustion engine, even if only momentarily.

Whether or not there is an actual need for noisemakers on electric cars and hybrids, the new bill, called the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 and backed by Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, calls for the Transportation department to establish new safety standards for alerting pedestrians to the presence of vehicles that are hard to hear.

We’ve already seen automakers take the initiative and attempt to make their cars noisier. As of now, three different automakers have taken three different approaches, with more likely to be on the way in future models, so a common set of standards will be helpful. 

The bill will now proceed to the House of Representatives, which is expected to pass it.

[Green Car Advisor]
Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (30)
  1. The government has actual done some good initial research in this area. Some of the more interesting findings are 1) the added noises only need to be emitted at low speed, 2)added noises do not help in urban environments (background noise is too high). 3) The Prius is already noiser than gasoline cars during a slowing/turning maneuver due to regen braking noise.
    Anyway, hopefully someone will have some time to do some real reporting on the issue. The EV advocates really don't tell the whole story and the government seems to be taking a slow and measured approach (at least for now).
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. This appears to be legislation for a problem that hasn't been called for by those allegedly most affected; the hard-of-hearing. It seems to have instead been raised and implemented by the hard-of-understanding.
    Who is the intended recipient of this good deed? Pedestrians using cell phones, kids with iPods blaring in their ears? I suspect that they'll be blissfully unaware of any noisemaker currently proposed.
    In the meantime, I intend to carry on as usual, using the eyes is my head and a little patience when driving through crowded cities.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. michael,
    you may be the ideal driver. while you mentioned kids with ipods, you forgot to mention drivers with cell phones, make-up kits, sandwiches, drinks, fidgeting with the radio, etc.
    i ride my bicycle all the time, and could write a book about the inattentiveness of drivers.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. i think it will be helpful IF THEY HAVE ONE STANDARD SOUND. it does not need to be intrusive. and it would seem to me that the sound could be made as to be somewhat silent to the driver, if he has the windows up.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. Thanks JB: I did mean vision-impared not hard of hearing.
    ev enthusiast: I see your point but still disagree that noise is the answer; all cars at 10mph are silent, esp. if the wind is in the wrong direction; I've been skimmed by a Jeep whilst on my bicycle.
    I feel that if you're of the vision-impared minority then you must set out in life equipped to survive and that means proximity systems not noise generators. I'd be happy to install a front-mounted proximity system based on a narrow radio beam to alert carriers of receivers that I was approaching. Let's face it, how about receivers built into iPods, cell-phones or walking stick. I'd put one in my bicycle helmet.
    From what I've heard (no pun intended) the noise generators are indeed innocuous to the driver but I object to the idea of a noise generator because I don't want my car to make any noise and I oppose the idea because I don't consider it a viable solution; its just knee-jerk.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  6. As my wife is legally blind and walks every where, I am truly in favor of it. I originally thought when this was brought up by my wife that it's unlikely that the hybrids would be that quiet she couldn't hear. Until the day she was walking across a parking lot and was almost hit by one, which also meant my 8 month old little girl in a sling around her would have also been hit. She walks with a cane even though she doesn't need it so people will realize she is legally blind, and may not be able to see them. Sorry it's in inconvenience for hybrid drivers to be considerate for those around you.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  7. As somebody who walks, runs, and rides bicycles. I can tell you that electric mode cars are MUCH quieter. Dangerously quiet. Glad to see the fed doing something that will actually make the world safer.
    Micheal you should get out of your car periodically. It's good for you.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  8. I vote that they all sound like the cars from The Jetsons
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  9. No matter how noisy cars are, you still have problems with assholes. Why not just make more stringent laws about pedestrian safety - that are actually pedestrian friendly?
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  10. People get hit by cars quite often, it really doesn't matter if the car is quiet or not. Rolls Royce purposely makes their cars quiet, are we going to demand that they make Rolls Royces noisier? People will get hit no matter what you do, it all has to do with who was distracted at the time. Lets get cell phones out of the hands of drivers by making it illegal first, cell phones pose more of a problem right now not EVs and Hybrids.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  11. I live in San Francisco, a haven for hybrids and pedestrians alike. I can tell you from several near-miss experiences that a low speed (below 20mph) noisemaker on electric vehicles is a good idea.
    The critics you mention both rely on fatality (as opposed to injury) data. The first one admits this isn't the best metric since the collisions in question are likely at less than 20mph, which is more likely to cause injury (however horrific), not death.
    Your second source relies on the argument that the number of pedestrian accidents for ALL cars has dropped. Given that hybrids still only constitute less than 3% of the new car market (not to mention the even lower share of all cars on the road), you don't have to be a statistician to see that even a large change in hybrids would have very little effect on the whole. Those reductions are likely the result of better roads, signals, etc.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  12. I live in San Francisco, a haven for hybrids and pedestrians alike. I can tell you from several near-miss experiences that a low speed (below 20mph) noisemaker on electric vehicles is a good idea.
    The critics you mention both rely on fatality (as opposed to injury) data. The first one admits this isn't the best metric since the collisions in question are likely at less than 20mph, which is more likely to cause injury (however horrific), not death.
    Your second source relies on the argument that the number of pedestrian accidents for ALL cars has dropped. Given that hybrids still only constitute less than 3% of the new car market (not to mention the even lower share of all cars on the road), you don't have to be a statistician to see that even a large change in hybrids would have very little effect on the whole. Those reductions are likely the result of better roads, signals, etc.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  13. they should have a sound up to 80km/h at which point there noise would be cut off.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  14. The loudest noise made by most vehicles at 10-20MPH in my experience -- comes from their tires. Many car engines are too quiet to be heard over the "racket" made by tires on pavement.
    It seems like this is solution in search of a problem?
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  15. I'd go with the Benny Hill soundtrack.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  16. @Michael: I really like your proximity sensor idea. I think it could work very well the other way also. People could carry transmitters that would broadcast their position and a car could receive the info and notify the driver: "Caution, blind person ahead." You could probably integrate the transmitter into a smartphone.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  17. You know what eventually is going to happen, people will start ignoring the sounds. Just like car alarms, I remember when they started putting alarms on cars people thought alarms would aid against theft, now people hear them and don't care to pay attention to them and the criminals know how to shut them off. The same will happen with hybrid and EV sound makers, pedestrians will ignore them and the drivers in a hurry or on their cell phones will still plow into people. There is no way to make the world safer, it's up to everyone to stay attentive and keep themselves safe.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  18. The problem is making hybrids as noisy as gas cars means they will be just as deadly as the gas cars that kill 50 blind pedestrians every year. Instead of going for solutions that protect all pedestrians and the hybrid drivers, sound only benefits one party, the blind yet paid by others.
    A decade of Prius operation in the USA has shown there is no unusual fatality risk. About 600,000 of them will drive 9 billion miles this year and they have been ramping up since 2000. That is more than enough time and miles to reveal a pedestrian fatality hazard.
    This flawed law means the blind will continue to die and someday under the wheels of hybrid with a noise maker. It delays implementation of effective safety systems like pedestrian detection, accident avoidance systems already found in high-end vehicles. That is why I still oppose H.R. 734.
    Bob Wilson, Huntsville, AL 35802
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  19. The claim of higher injuries stem from a math trick used in NHTSA report DOT HS 811 204. Table 6a shows "1.8%" to "1.0%" turning for 19 incidents, and "5.3%" to "2.9%" for 7 backing incidents. A ratio of these percentages is wrong because this is part of 100%, a net-sum-zero. With percentages, only differences should be used, not ratios of the smallest slivers of data. Worse was ignoring table 3d that in straight line incidents, hybrids are "44%" to "47%" a projected 109 incidents avoided.
    A math trick was used to compare the relative size of the smallest pieces while ignoring the broad beam of data where hybrids are safer. This report is being misquoted to make a false claim for a law that will ensure a blind pedestrian will die under the wheels of noise maker equipped car . . . safety will not improved which is why I oppose H.R. 734.
    Bob Wilson, Huntsville, AL 35802
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  20. hi cd,
    it is not the same. people ignore the sounds of car alarms, because firstly it is not their car, as a rule. and secondly, they mostly go off when no thief was actually there.
    sounds on cars would not be ingored, because those outside of the car would realize that it could affect them in a serious way.
    however, i am not just for noisemakers on evs. i think they should be on all vehicles. one standard sound to indicate that a vehicle is nearby. and certainly it can be made inaudible when the speed of a car gets to a certain point, such that it is noisy anyways.
    i had an edison car drive by me on my bicycle, and i couldnt hear a thing, whereas with most cars i usually can. so evs are quieter. but put the same exact sound on all cars.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  21. Hi "ev enthusiast," sound was addressed at the June 23, 2008, "Quiet Cars" hearing in DC. The presenter from "The Noise Pollution Clearinghouse" pointed out that cars today are hidden in the background noise. Adding more noise leads to the 'cocktail party' effect that leads to everyone shouting at each other at the end to be heard over the noise of others shouting at each other. It is the audio equivalent of trying to use a tactical, nuclear weapon . . . it escalates.
    This is why accident avoidance systems are the key to improved safety for cars and even personal use. In fact, all of the audio experts pointed out that background noise makes this problem a lot harder than listening to a car in the middle of a field on a windless night (the NHTSA field study released this year.)
    Bob Wilson, Huntsville, AL 35802
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  22. they should use that sound from "dumb and dumber" jim carey's most annoying sound
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  23. Did anyone actually read the bill? It says
    "to provide blind and other pedestrians with a non-visual alert regarding the location, motion, speed, and direction of travel of a motor vehicle that provides substantially the same protection of such pedestrians as that provided by a motor vehicle with an internal combustion engine; and"
    http://tinyurl.com/2dg42mw
    The method is not prescribed by the bill. The bill requires that a study be done, it does not necessarily require noise makers.
    I suggest that the title of this article is flat "WRONG".
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  24. ev, I'm not saying they're the same. I was merely pointing out how people have become so used to hearing car alarms that most of us just ignore them now. And as hybrids and EVs become more mainstream people are going to become so used to hearing these generated sounds that they're going to pay less and less attention to what ever sound is generated. People step out in front of cars all the time no matter how loud it is. I had a woman step out in front of me once and I was in a Porsche making plenty of noise yet she still ran into the road.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  25. Reading the language of H.R. 734, Section 3 Findings, states "(7) failure to take immediate action assuring that blind pedestrians can hear hybrid or other silent vehicle in all phases of their operation will inevitably lead to pedestrian injuries and fatalities . . ." and "(8) . . . require that vehicles emit a minimum level of sound designed to alert all pedestrians, especially blind pedestrians, . , ." It is the findings that set the legal requirement. This is about noise makers. Source: Thomas.loc.gov.
    Bob Wilson, Huntsville, AL 35802
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  26. hi bob,
    i dont agree with those findings. different noises can be heard amongst other noises, when their frequencies are different, etc.
    just look at music. you can hear a high note amongst an even much louder bass sound, because it is that different.
    if desired, the noise issued by a car can be such that it is easily differentiated from other background noises.
    the main thing is that every car needs to make that same sound, so that we all get keyed into our brains - "sound such and such means a car is nearby".
    once engrained, we will be aware. it is not gonna save everyone. some people are just stupid or ridiculously careless, or whatever else you want to call it. most of us value our lives such that we will heed the "car sound".
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  27. OK. So maybe I don't know how to read a bill, but note this part under the "study" section.
    "consider whether the minimum level of sound requirement or another method that conveys information essential for pedestrian safety "
    Note that "another method" is specifically talked about.
    Later in section 5
    "...establish a method for alerting blind and other pedestrians"
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  28. It's OK John, I don't think the politicians who wrote them are able to read them either.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  29. The bill passed and is on its way for signature.
    Bob Wilson, Huntsville, AL 35802
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  30. This law is all ado about nothing. Many cars are really silent at low speed so if the law is not vetoed it should apply to all cars, not just hybrids and EVs
    I have been driving a hybrid for four years without the slightest incident.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement

Find Green Cars

Go!
Advertisement

Advertisement

 
© 2014 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.