Noisemaking Rules For Hybrids, Electric Cars Proposed By DoT

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Lotus Safe & Sound noisemaker

Lotus Safe & Sound noisemaker

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The U.S. Department of Transport has become the latest group to look further into noisemaking devices for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Several pressure and safety groups have proposed such devices in the past, reasoning that the silent nature of cars using electric power at low speeds would prove a risk to pedestrians.

The DoT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing a minimum sound standard for hybrid and electric vehicles, which would require them to produce a noise detectable under 18 mph.

"Safety is our highest priority, and this proposal will help keep everyone using our nation's streets and roadways safe, whether they are motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians, and especially the blind and visually impaired," explains U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

For many owners, an electric or hybrid vehicle's low-speed silence is one of its greatest virtues.

Yet, as the number of electrically-propelled vehicles has increased in recent years, some groups have been putting pressure on carmakers to attach noisemakers to their vehicles, making it easier for pedestrians, and particularly the visually-impaired, to detect an approaching vehicle.

As yet, there's been little conclusive evidence that the silence of electric and hybrid vehicles is a contributing factor in accidents--nor that existing, noisier vehicles are safer, despite thousands of pedestrians worldwide being injured or killed each year by internal combustion vehicles.

The NHTSA says that carmakers would have the freedom to pick their own noise, but this noise would have to meet certain requirements in order to be audible.

The Administration predicts that there would be 2,800 fewer pedestrian and cyclist injuries over the life of each model year of electric and hybrid vehicles as a result of the noisemaking devices.

What do you think about noisemakers in hybrid and electric vehicles? A genuine concern, or just a lot of noise?... Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Comments (15)
  1. Unless the noise specifically identifies it as a vehicle (engine noise simulation), then it won't do the trick. A blind person isn't going to recognize a futuristic space ship sound as an approaching car.

  2. Dishonest, misleading and attention grabbing title. "Noisemaking Rules For Hybrids, Electric Cars Proposed By DoT". Why take shortcuts Mr. Ingram? Be honest.

  3. I'm not sure I follow, Peter - the story is about the NHTSA (part of the DoT) proposing noisemaking rules for hybrids and electric vehicles. What part of the title suggests any different?

  4. My Fisker Karma already has an electronic sound dubbed "Tron". I find it effective and like the sound!

  5. Another example of our government fixing a non-problem. If regulators feel they must do something, then require EVs & Hybrids be equipped with a short range transponder that will trigger an alert in an earpiece worn by anyone who feels they are at risk. No more noise please!

  6. I take it you or your family member is not blind. A blind person carries a cane or walks with a dog plus a backpack with poop bags, watertray and often food. They have a monoucular, money reader, digital recorder, voice operated phone, maybe a work computer, etc. They do not need to add a transponder and earpiece.

  7. in ten years (maybe 5) they are going to laugh at what idiot thought of making cars make more noise.
    The current ICE based cars are practically silent with the engines turned off during low speeds in city.
    Stop with all the stupid ideas to fix something that is not a problem. I see the lack of noise as a good thing in my neighborhood.

  8. Adding a little noise would be a start. Simple. Cheap. I'd like to see more serious pedestrian safety measures, as is done in the european tests. Check
    out or Google euroncap pedestrian

  9. I think making electric cars louder is rediculous.Just stupid and I'm against it.

  10. Most ICE vehicles are virtually silent at speeds under 10 kph, over 10 kph Tyre noise is noticeable in all vehicles. this noise maker could be utilized when reversing , such as a reversing alarm(eg a truck) . Technology exists in for vehicles to apply brakes when a hazard is detected with no input from the driver this could be mandatory for all vehicles. What will we do with bicycles that have just a human operated bell? which reminds me , All vehicles have driver operated warning devices!

  11. Teply, cover your eyes, grab a cane and walk your streets for a day. You probably will change your opinion.

  12. Ya know I'd have to agree, you know how many times I've been backing up or driving through a parking lot and people walk RIGHT in front of me?! These are non deaf/blind people by the way. Sure I love the silence of my car, but I'd rather not hit someone. I think the Karma sounds sorta cool, I wouldn't mind that on a my Volt.

  13. Why stop at EV and hybrids? They should require that on all cars with low rolling resistance tires that has any kind of stop/start features.

    Or just set a noise level and add a new test. If you are below that, add the device. Above it, not required.

    Personally, I think they should fine those cars that generate way too much noise in low speed driving.

  14. I'll second that. If the problem is that cars are too quiet, make a rule for cars, not just EVs.

  15. What about a horn.

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