2012 Ford Focus Electric Won’t Have a Pedestrian Alert Noisemaker

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2012 Ford Focus Electric at 2011 Geneva Motor Show, photo by Robert Llewellyn

2012 Ford Focus Electric at 2011 Geneva Motor Show, photo by Robert Llewellyn

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For some time now there’s been a battle raging between politicians, advocacy groups and the electric car industry over compulsory noise-makers in electric cars

Now the latest twist comes courtesy of Ford, which has announced that its 2012 Ford Focus Electric will initially ship without any on-board pedestrian alert systems. 

The reason? Ford’s bosses say noisemakers just aren’t needed. 

At the moment, legislation is making its way through Congress to mandate that all plug-in vehicles and hybrids be fitted with artificial noise-makers to alert pedestrians that an quiet car is approaching.  In other words, noise makers aren’t compulsory just yet. 

And if Ford isn’t required by law to fit a noisemaker, it isn’t about to, according to Ford’s Director of Electrification and Sustainable Mobility Programs Sherif Markaby. 

“We are participating to support the legislation and we plan to introduce alert noises prior to any laws taking effect, but we won’t include any in our first generation,” Markaby told Autotrader.com. “We just don’t want to be too hasty because there are a lot of factors that go into it and we also want to balance the sounds so that they are effective but not annoying.”

All-new 2012 Ford Focus Electric

All-new 2012 Ford Focus Electric

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When the legislation becomes law, Ford will of course include pedestrian noise alert systems. Until then, it plans on using the extra time to develop the best possible pedestrian warning system it can. 

Unlike many automakers, Ford has included fans of its 2012 Focus Electric in the decision-making process, using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to figure out just what the 2012 Ford Focus Electric’s audible warning system should sound like. 

You can forget about sounds inspired by Star Wars too: the opinion poll results showed that normality was the most popular choice. 

“We’ve finished a lot of research around what kinds of sounds are the most effective and least intrusive,” said Markaby. “In fact, we just finished a survey online with incredible response, and the sound that was far and away the highest rated was the one that sounded most like a combustion engine.”


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Comments (12)
  1. Dag-gone-it! Since they don't consider a horn worth its bread-in-butter any more, I wanted my noisy maker to sound like a herd of raging wild elephants. If you don't scare those millions on top of millions of blind people out of the middle of the roads, they will just continue to wonder around like zombies.

  2. Nice job, Ford. I don't think we need the noise maker at all. I think it is all a bunch of blooey. The tires make plenty of noise. But if we have to have some noise maker make it sound like a regular gas engine with a rumbling muffler sound. Or allow you to select from a wide list of sounds.

  3. Oh no! You mean Ford Focus Electric owners are going to be forced to pay attention?! But how will they be able to use their cell phones during low speed maneuvers?!?! ; )

  4. First - the Feds must write the law based on noises, not whether the vehicle is electric or not, since noise is the issue. Any car not making enough noise would require a noisemaker to bring it up to the "proper" noise level. Second : evidence must be provided that indicates the extent to which any such noisemakers actually make things safer. Namely, the Feds must prove that when a large number of cars are making noise in a parking lot, it does not diminish the effectiveness of the noisemakers. And also that it will not be dangerous to have half the cars making noises and the other half not, will not be more dangerous than doing nothing,
    since it will falsely lead folks to assume they need only use their ears in order to detect danger.

  5. The "Pedestrian Safety Act of 2010" was signed into law by Obama on January 6 of this year. It currently targets EVs and hybrids, but also allows for inclusion of ICEs.

  6. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-841

  7. I originally wanted an EV noise at low speeds but now I am doubting its effectiveness. Why? People are more audio oblivious than ever whether cars are fossil powered or electric. They frequently plug their ears. Why not a shot of strobe light triggered by the driver? That would mean both the pedestrians and the driver have to be engaged as they should be. Don't lull pedestrians who are already lulled.

  8. @Art: Wouldn't work for blind people, would it? The National Federation for the Blind is one of the drivers behind the mandatory-noisemaker legislation. I suspect they'd argue your visual indicator isn't sufficient, LOL.

  9. And the reason the NFB even thinks this is an issue?
    The person who brought it to their attention has patents for cars making artificial noise.
    Tires make enough noise as is. With all due respect, if a blind person cannot hear the tires rolling on the pavement then they shouldn't be walking alone anyway - they'd miss too many other sounds.

  10. Actually, that is not true. Yesterday was National Plug-in Day, and near Seattle we had a collection of at least 80 EVs. More than half were the Nissan Leaf - which have a pedestrian alert sound. I can tell you, that neither were effective. Just talking at a normal conversational level, I did not hear the Leafs approaching until they were actually right next to me (I mean less than 1 foot from the fender). Tire noise is not enough, and the noise level of the Leaf system is not enough. All the vehicle really needs is a bicycle bell.

  11. You mean like a horn?

  12. After driving my Leaf for six months, I agree with Ford. I think it is my job to watch out for others as I drive and not to make a lot of noise...the advantage of an EV is it doesn't make a lot of sound. I support a backup cam rather than a ringing sound when backing up and the high pitched sound when driving in a parking lot doesn't warn anyone because it's not loud enough. If it was loud, it could fast become an unwanted noise. I have been giving much thought to disabling the sound...if it's not law. I will.

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