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The ‘quiet killers’: new regulation requires electric or hybrid vehicles to make more noise

Tue 15 Nov 2016

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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has passed a new regulation which will require all electric and hybrid vehicles to make a noise by September 2019.

While the legislation does not specify the kind of sound the electric cars will need to make, it does suggest that the noise must be clearly audible when the vehicle is moving forward or in reverse at speeds up to 30 kilometres per hour (19 mph). At faster speeds, the sound alert is not required given that other factors, such as wind and tyre noise, provide adequate warning to pedestrians.

Known as the ‘quiet car’ rule, the new law will only apply to four-wheeled vehicles with a gross weight below 10,000 pounds, meaning that two-wheeled models, such as the anticipated Vespa Elettrica, will be permitted to run silently.

‘This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians — especially folks who are blind or have low vision — make their way safely,’ noted NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind in the official NHTSA release.

‘With pedestrian fatalities on the rise, it is vitally important we take every action to protect the most vulnerable road users,’ he continued.

Once all hybrid vehicles are equipped with the sound alert, the NHTSA predicts that the development could help prevent around 2,400 injuries to pedestrians and cyclists every year in the U.S.

Commenting on the new process, Eric Bridges, executive director of the American council of the Blind, said: ‘This new safety standard moving forward will not just make our streets safer for blind and visually impaired Americans, but also serve as an additional safety cue for all pedestrians who share the streets with hybrid or electric vehicles.’

Auto-makers have until the 1st September 2019 to equip their electric and hybrid fleets with the necessary sound components in order to comply with the NHTSA rule. It is expected, however, that car companies will comply long before this proposed deadline. The Nissan Leaf, for example, is already installed with noise-making equipment.


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