NHTSA looking to implement new noise enhancement rules for electric vehicles

July 13, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

(PhysOrg.com) -- The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on July 7, that it plans to implement new regulations requiring electric vehicles to emit some as yet undesignated "noise" to warn pedestrians of its approach. This move comes on the heels of passage, by Congress, of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, which requires the NHTSA to take action to protect pedestrians from the nearly noiseless electric (and hybrid) vehicles that lawmakers believe pose a hazard to unsuspecting people crossing roads, especially those with hearing impairments.

The legislation has come about as a result of two studies that indicated that might be at increased risk of being run over by . The first, conducted in 2008 by Lawrence Rosenblum, a University of California perceptual psychologist, showed that subjects wearing blindfolds were able to hear a Honda Accord with a gas engine approaching from as far away as 36 feet, but were only able to hear a (hybrid) when it drew as near as 11 feet.

In the other study, done by the NHTSA itself, research indicated that there was a higher percentage rate for electric vehicles running into pedestrians, than gas powered models.

And while some may debate the accuracy of the research (the NHTSA study used data from just 12 states and only for one year) or the degree to which electric vehicles actually pose a risk, the bottom line, is that new regulations are very likely going to be implemented, a draft standard will be issued in 2012, with the new rules going into effect in 2015.

Thus, the issue now is just what sort of “noise” will the car manufacturers be required to add. Some, such as the Nissan Leaf, already make a sort of whoosh sound, and Ford is opting for a crowd sourced option that will hopefully come up with a sound that the majority of electric vehicle owners won’t hate. All this might be moot however if the NHTSA picks a noise on its own. Also an issue is whether such cars would be required to make the noise all the time, or just during slow driving when it more likely matters. They could also decide to add different noises for different activities, such as when a vehicle is moving in reverse or turning, a likely possibility since the legislation spurring them to action in the first place also applies to light and low-speed vehicles, motorcycles, buses, and heavy-duty trucks.

Explore further: Hybrid cars too quiet for pedestrian safety? Add engine noise, say human factors researchers

Related Stories

Hybrid Cars Are Harder to Hear

March 31, 2008

Hybrid cars are so quiet when operating only with their electric motors that they may pose a risk to the blind and some other pedestrians, research by a University of California, Riverside psychologist suggests.

Prius gets sound option to protect pedestrians

August 24, 2010

(AP) -- Toyota's Prius hybrid is becoming a little less quiet with a new electronic humming device that is the automaker's answer to complaints that pedestrians can't hear the top-selling car approaching.

A way to hear the electric car coming down the road

May 28, 2008

"Close your eyes," engineering graduate student Bryan Bai called out from his Prius at the far end of the Tresidder parking lot, before the car began moving forward. A Toyota Prius runs silently on electric power until its ...

Toyota to launch six new hybrids by end of 2012

September 14, 2010

The world's top automaker Toyota Motor plans to launch six new hybrid models by the end of 2012, a spokesman for the company said Tuesday, as competition to build greener cars heats up.

Recommended for you

Volumetric 3-D printing builds on need for speed

December 11, 2017

While additive manufacturing (AM), commonly known as 3-D printing, is enabling engineers and scientists to build parts in configurations and designs never before possible, the impact of the technology has been limited by ...

Tech titans ramp up tools to win over children

December 10, 2017

From smartphone messaging tailored for tikes to computers for classrooms, technology titans are weaving their way into childhoods to form lifelong bonds, raising hackles of advocacy groups.

Mapping out a biorobotic future  

December 8, 2017

You might not think a research area as detailed, technically advanced and futuristic as building robots with living materials would need help getting organized, but that's precisely what Vickie Webster-Wood and a team from ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 13, 2011
Well, Harley already has the "potato - potato" sound .............
5 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2011
Waste of time. We might as well add TSA checkpoints as well.

Design roads so it is physically impossible to hit pedestrians and let computers navigate for cars. Or more cost effective since money is our sole mission in life, tell the pedestrian to walk away from the roads.
not rated yet Jul 13, 2011
Maybe they will legislate the decibel level of the sound, so that car manufacturers can provide their own unique sounds. And then users could download their own "road tunes" sound for their vehicle.
5 / 5 (4) Jul 13, 2011
Or maybe people can listen to what their mother told them and look both ways before stepping out onto a road.
not rated yet Jul 13, 2011
The other day I was listening as my neighbor was teaching his son to " Look both ways ", I noticed he also was adamant about listening for vehicles too.

I could see the merit in this, but there could be a better solution.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2011
During the end of the first horse and buggy era, some American districts banned gasoline powered motorcars from public streets unless they were preceded by someone walking in front of the car carrying a red flag and warning pedestrians and horse drawn coaches.

I see that there has been much advancement in the American mindset since that era.
not rated yet Jul 15, 2011
Following the warped logic of the NHTSA they will have to require the removal of the mufflers on most of the new gas cars that are hard to hear at idle because someone could get run into if the driver is not floor boarding it and the electric cars need 500 watt speakers playing the sound of a top feul dragster reving according to the drivers throttle position. Problem solved.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.