Vroom for Safety: Hybrid Cars Must Make Noise, Feds Say
Hybrid and electric vehicles someday will zoom down the road with a simulated vroom. The reason: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed a minimum noise standard that hybrid cars must make so pedestrians can hear the nearly silent cars coming. The agency's draft proposal was opened for public comment today (Jan. 7).
"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," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
The NHTSA estimated that the proposed standard, called Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, would prevent 2,800 injuries and 35 deaths over the lifetime of every model year of hybrid cars, trucks and vans.
The proposal, being published on FederalRegister.gov today, will be open for comment for the next 60 days. The agency will use the comments to devise a final standard.
The proposed standard applies to electric and hybrid vehicles while they're traveling under 18 miles per hour. Hybrid cars are especially difficult to hear at such slow speeds, the NHTSA says.
The standard allows carmakers to choose different sounds for their models, although vehicles of the same make and model must make similar sounds. The NHTSA has posted several examples of sounds that don't meet the proposed requirement, that meet the requirement and that exceed the requirement.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 is a requirement of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which Congress passed in 2010.
The National Federation for the Blind has long lobbied for noisier hybrids. Sighted people, too, depend on car noises to know when a vehicle is coming up behind them, the group has argued.
Federation staff members are working to review the new legislation, but can't comment until they finish that review, said spokesman Chris Danielsen. TechNewsDaily will update this story when the group's comments are ready.