US makes electric cars louder to protect pedestrians

The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced last week that it is adding a sound requirement for all newly manufactured hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles to help protect pedestrians.

The new federal safety standard will help pedestrians who are blind, have low vision, and other pedestrians detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are traveling at low speeds, which will help prevent about 2400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped.

“We all depend on our senses to alert us to possible danger,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“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.”

Under the new rule, all hybrid and electric light vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less will be required to make audible noise when traveling in reverse or forward at speeds up to 30 kilometers per hour (about 19 miles per hour).

At higher speeds, the sound alert is not required because other factors, such as tire and wind noise, provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians.

“This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians — especially folks who are blind or have low vision — make their way safely,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind.

“With pedestrian fatalities on the rise, it is vitally important we take every action to protect the most vulnerable road users.”

Manufacturers have until 2019 to equip all new hybrid and electric vehicles with sounds that meet the new federal safety standard.