NHTSA proposes new set of sound requirements for electric vehicles and hybrids

Article by Christian Andrei, on January 11, 2013

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a proposed a new set of sound requirements for electric vehicles and hybrids. These standards will be addressing the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act that became a law in 2010. The new standards seek to prevent these vehicles from creeping up on unsuspecting pedestrians at slow speeds at less than 18 mph.

There isn’t any way for the blind and visually impaired to be alerted to the approach of electric and hybrid vehicles. The agency is proposing that all manufacturers would be required to raise the volume on their electric and hybrid vehicles. The vehicle would also need to be audible in a busy city setting. Automakers can select from a wide variety of sounds however it has to comply with certain minimum requirements.

In addition, cars that have the same make and model have to make the same sound. When the vehicle is moving faster than 18 mph, it doesn’t have to make a sound since tire noise and other sounds are loud enough to alert pedestrians and bicyclists. But even without these standards, car companies have begun to develop safety systems that permit their quieter products to be heard by pedestrians.

Ford had asked its Facebook fans in 2011 to determine the sound they preferred on the Focus Electric. Before this, Lotus has started to test an external sound system on a Toyota Prius, which may adjust volume levels based on pedal pressure and was believed to be almost inaudible to the driver.

The agency thinks that if these standards are implemented, there will be 2800 fewer pedestrian and cyclist injuries each year. This proposal was newly filed with the Federal Register, where the public will get the chance to read the full article and comment on it as soon as it is published.

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