NHTSA Is Moving to Make It Mandatory
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing that hybrid and electric vehicles “meet minimum sound standards in order to help make all pedestrians more aware of the approaching vehicles.” Electric-drive vehicles, in other words, will have to have sounds added to increase safety.
“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,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a Monday release.
“Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street,” said NHTSA administrator David Strickland.
Automakers Can Choose Their Sounds
The rule would apply to battery EVs and to hybrids that can move without their internal combustion engines running.
The sounds would have to be audible “under a wide range of street noises and other ambient background sounds when the vehicle is traveling under 18 miles per hour,” states an agency release, as “at 18 miles per hour and above, vehicles make sufficient noise to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to detect them without added sound.”
Each automaker will be able to choose a sound for its vehicles, in line with minimum requirements. “In addition, each vehicle of the same make and model would need to emit the same sound or set of sounds,” NHTSA says.
The agency estimates that the regulation could prevent 2,800 injuries over the life of each model year of hybrid cars, trucks and vans and low speed vehicles, as compared to vehicles without sound.
NHTSA has posted more than a dozen sample noises on its website (link below). Public comment on the new proposal will be accepted for 60 days. Docket NHTSA-2011-0148; RIN 2127-AK93.
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Source: NHTSA with Fleets & Fuels follow-up