Sound Rules for Electric and Hybrid Cars

If you’ve ever stood on a sidewalk curb or walked across a parking lot when an electric or hybrid car drives by, you may not know they’re there unless you’re looking at them. One of the benefits of electric and hybrid cars is they’re quiet. That’s also one of the downsides if you’re a pedestrian or cyclist who’s not paying attention!

In the past few days, the US Department of Transportation finalized a set of rules requiring electric and hybrid cars to emit a sound at low speeds to warn pedestrians of their approach. The rule requires the pedestrian warning to continue until a vehicle reaches a speed of 18.6 kilometers per hour or 30 mph. Once a vehicle passes 30 miles per hour, it makes enough noise, either from the tires or wind, to be heard. All manufacturers of electric and hybrid, or “quiet” vehicles are to comply with these rules by 2020, and with at least 50% of all new vehicles having this capability by 2019.

This rule was originally passed by Congress in 2010, however, was delayed by the Trump administration until they were able to review petitions from the auto makers. The review was recently completed allowing the Department of Transportation to release the updated requirements last week. This is an important safety feature for pedestrians, cyclists, and the blind. Approximately 125,000 pedestrians and cyclists are injured annually on roads each year.

The cost to add an audible sound alert at low speeds is estimated to cost auto makers about $40 million annually as waterproof speakers are added to quiet vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates pedestrians are 19% more likely to be struck by a quiet vehicle than they are a vehicle with a gas engine. They believe the new requirement will help avoid 2,400 injuries resulting in a savings of $250 million to $320 million annually.

It would be interesting to know if current owners of electric and hybrid vehicles could easily have this capability added to their vehicles. What do you think? Share your comments, questions, and experiences with me on my Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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