• Jun 24th 2008 at 1:53PM
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Hybrid and fully electric vehicles have come under fire as of late due to the quietness at which they operate. While this is seemingly a good thing for passengers of the vehicle, there are legitimate concerns that blind people will not be able to detect the rapidly approaching vehicle if it is not making any sound. Along with blind pedestrians, safety advocates are concerned that children and cyclists will be at risk from silent vehicles.

The issue of hybrid and electric car silence is a complicated one. Of course, these vehicles are not really "silent," as the tires and associated systems do emit some sound, though it may be inaudible with other various traffic sounds. Some are proposing a minimum sound level for all vehicles, though nothing is likely to happen until the situation is studied.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to begin research right away into the dangers of quiet hybrids and electric cars and has plans to introduce "technology neutral" ways to combat the problem. This continues to be an interesting discussion and one we're sure to hear plenty more about.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      btw, i didn't want to infer with my comment above that someone with vision problems should be blaming themselves for their blindness.

      i'm speaking more about the woman who raised the big stink when her son was almost hit by a prius while riding a bicycle. she blamed the prius' lack of noise, as opposed to her son's lack of attention to his surroundings, or her own lack of supervision, for the incident.

      obviously, those with sight problems need to be considered. i agree with the commenter who says that we should instead lower the noise level of ALL vehicles, making quieter vehicles easier to hear. no simple noisemaker is going to make an electric car audible when a harley or sportbike passed me a few seconds ago.

      cue the idiots who claim that 'loud pipes save lives'.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree with the posters who point out that some cars are essentially silent now against the background of surrounding traffic. There are also cars that make very little engine noise once they get up to speed in urban settings and aren't accelerating. But this isn't a new problem. I live in a city with a lot a bicycles and ride one myself. Bikes are VERY quiet.

      In Europe where tens of thousands ride bikes on a daily basis, this is a very old problem. How have they dealt with it?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree with most posters here...a stupid idea. Clearly someone has too much time on their hands. We should welcome quietness, not shun it. Noise pollution is bad enough as it is. I already find cars so over-regulated as it is. In my opinion, that makes them less, not more, desirable.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Exactly. What's needed are MAXIMUM sound restrictions for cars AND trucks (and everything else that uses the road). We need to get the overall ambient noise level DOWN, not up. Once that's done, the tire and gear noise of EVs will be plenty loud for a blind person to hear.

      Until then? Develop a "personal radar" that can sense large fast-moving objects close to the wearer and notify him/her (by sight, sound or vibration) of danger. EVs could even have an onboard ultrasonic "pinger" that could notify a receiver of it's presence and speed & direction.

      Don't penalize the whole world's ability to live quietly because of one group when there are other means of notification than noise.

      Also, per the article, what's a "technology neutral" solution to this problem? Playing cards in the spokes?
      • 7 Years Ago
      It seems pretty simple: include a noise emitting device that is noticeable but not annoying and (nearly) inaudible from within the car. It doesn't need to be any louder or more noticeable than a well-muffled ICE.

      It doesn't need to even be electronic or expensive, one of those deer sirens, retuned to human hearing, would work fine.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I say these cars already have a sufficient noise emitting device.. a horn
      • 7 Years Ago
      Most states have noise restrictions. The problem is aftermarket exhausts or broken mufflers.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I don't think anyone's suggested (except as a strawman) that EV's need to be louder (or even as loud) as any other car on the road: if there's a Harley or riced out honda with a fart cannon on the road, then of course there's no motivation to be louder than that.

      The idea is to be louder than silence on pedestrian filled streets when you are in control of machine capable of inducing death and, as the kids say, shucking some fit up.

      And yes Tim, you can disable whatever safety equipment you want, just like you've always been able to. Just hook it back for the inspection and watch out for kids and white canes.
      • 7 Years Ago
      As I see it the problem is not so much that some cars are very quiet, but that some cars are much quieter than others. You can't really hear my Civic driving next to a Harley or a big-rig. Is there any logic at all in imposing a minimum sound level that is still MUCH quieter than the loudest vehicles on the road? I would say no. To truly keep the blind (and oblivious) safe, all vehicles on the road should be required to be as loud as a dump truck, or perhaps a gang of Hell's Angels.

      Who's with me?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I say put some baseball cards in the spokes of the wheels!
      • 7 Years Ago
      “The electrics are now giving the gas-guzzlers a run for their money in the
      Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.”


      “Since the ER3 is nearly silent, the crew put a sound system on the car to produce an engine-like noise to make sure that spectators lining the course would be aware that the ER3 was coming down the track. This sound system was programmed to make a buzz or whine that was proportional to the speed of the car. It seemed to fool everyone as most people at the track were very surprised when I revealed that the sound was artificial. This was a big improvement over the annoying siren used on the ER2.”
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks this idea is completely ridiculous. EV road noise is more than sufficient. I'll reiterate that the focus should be on volume Maximums, not Minimums. Once the whole world is driving EVs, this will be a non issue anyway. I only wish that was today and not a half century away.
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