Automotive

"Quiet Car" safety standard calls for EVs and hybrids to make some noise

"Quiet Car" safety standard ca...
The new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 will help prevent around 2,400 pedestrian injuries per year, according to the NHTSA
The new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 will help prevent around 2,400 pedestrian injuries per year, according to the NHTSA
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The new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 will help prevent around 2,400 pedestrian injuries per year, according to the NHTSA
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The new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 will help prevent around 2,400 pedestrian injuries per year, according to the NHTSA

Electric and hybrid vehicles are quiet … too quiet, according to the US Department of Transportation. Although the unobtrusive thrum of an EV in motion could be thought of as a positive thing, the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced a new safety standard that will require newly-manufactured hybrid and electric vehicles to emit artificial warning sounds to alert pedestrians to their presence.

The new rule is the product of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act 2010, and the process of defining the specifics has been caught up in the bureaucratic process for years. Now that it's official, the new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 will help prevent around 2,400 pedestrian injuries per year, according to the NHTSA. The European Commission and the UN are both already considering similar regulations.

Applying to all hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles with four wheels and a gross weight of 10,000 lb (4,536 kg) or less, the new standard states that these vehicles will be required to emit an audible noise while running, both forwards and in reverse, below 18.6 mph (30 km/h). Any faster than that, and noise from the wind and wheels are apparently loud enough to alert any nearby pedestrians or cyclists to the vehicle's presence.

"We all depend on our senses to alert us to possible danger," says Anthony Foxx, US Transportation Secretary. "With more, quieter hybrid and electrical cars on the road, the ability for all pedestrians to hear as well as see the cars becomes an important factor of reducing the risk of possible crashes and improving safety."

September 1, 2018 is the first deadline, when at least half of newly-manufactured hybrid and electric vehicles must be fitted with these systems. After that, manufacturers will have exactly one year to ensure that their entire fleets meet the requirements.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

25 comments
Alien
This is sensible but even more important is the need for some noise-making system for electric motor cycles and scooters, etc. Adoption of electric two wheelers is likely to rise even more rapidly than cars, especially in developing countries.
Motor cycles, often approach very fast and are first detected by their noise and if almost silent would present a real danger on the roads.
Bob Stuart
I sure hope the committees studying what sound to use get sent packing. To be recognized, a car should sound like other cars. While I'm here - those back-up alarms are good for semi-trailers in yards where children trespass. On an all-night street excavator, they are a major health hazard and provide no extra warning. If I ever get run over by one of those, it is because I've learned to ignore that signal at all times.
Deres
It would also be safer if a specific noise would be created when a silent car start moving. With a conventional car, you can differentiate a started car from a waiting car by the sound, which is convenient when walking inside a parking lot. Maybe a luminous signal would also be safer for people that have impaired audition.
TErber
If only humans got ability to receive and analyze visual stimuli... oh wait... we have eyes...
Why not start using them to look around while walking across the street? Too radical?
Martin Rayner
Making electric cars generate a noise is misguided. Here we have a non polluting mode of transport that helps with noise pollution as well as air pollution and carbon pollution. Every car is provided with a brake and is driven by somebody with vision. These wonderful cars also have a horn for emergencies. Pedestrians have vision to see what is coming. Why therefore, do we need to create more noise pollution. Is this the oil lobby trying to vainly resist the onward march of the clean, quiet, electric car, surely the transport of the future where all our cities will have fresh air and silent except for the noise of rubber on tarmac.
Martin Winlow
This is complete insanity. Just wind forward a few years when the proportion of EVs to ICEVs is reversed and imagine the total cacophony that will assault ones ears walking down a busy inner city street. And why only on vehicles weighing less that 4t? Don't bigger ones hurt more when they hit you? And if EVs, why not Rolls Royces and other posh motors that, especially from the front, make no noise? Surely our respective governments have more important things to think about? What difference will it make anyway when most pedestrians have a set of earphones stuck in their ears listening to 'music' loud enough to drown out even the arrival of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse?
Techtwit
Make a noise like a highly tuned big capacity V8 running on open pipes and I may not laugh quite so much at these battery cars. More seriously, idiots manage to get hit by diesel buses and big trucks, neither of which can be called silent. As long as pedestrians "lose" themselves in social media and music played too loudly, ten walk in front of moving vehicles they are beyond saving.
jkn
I have to use rather long private gravel road. It is so narrow that it is not possible to pass pedestrians, if they don't notice car coming. Very often they don't notice. I don't have an EV. I drive an old, not so silent car. If I would trust pedestrians to hear my car and move away, I would knock down a pedestrian once a week.
So an EV will have irritating noise added. If drivers trust pedestrians to hear that, accident will increase.
My house is not beside that road, but others are. For safety I have to pass those houses < 30 km/h. It is also speed limit. I sometimes drive after midnight. Of course no noise is necessary in dark (no street lights).
This is one of most idiotic laws ever made.
fred_dot_u
Here is another example of removing or re-directing the responsibility of the driver of a vehicle to operate in a safe manner. EV operators are no less responsible for road safety than ICE operators. If there's a pedestrian using the roadway, does having a noisy vehicle absolve the operator of the responsibility to ensure the pedestrian's safety? Another "solution" without a real problem.
Captain Obvious
How about a bluetooth message to those in the immediate vicinity that says "Hey, look up, dummy!"