Hands down, one of the few pleasures of driving a hybrid is cruising around in all-electric mode. There's just something that's undeniably cool about silently whisking along, but if a new auto safety bill makes its way into law, we can kiss even that one pleasure goodbye. A coalition of automotive manufacturers and advocacy groups for the blind have joined forces to make sure that silent-running vehicles will make more noise in the future. The logic is that the blind and other pedestrians are at risk of being struck by quiet hybrids and EVs. We can't really argue with that one.
If passed, the bill would have the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration propose regulations for an "alert sound" within a year and a half, and finalize the rules within three years. Drivers would not be able to turn off the noise. So far, there's no word as to how loud the noise would be or what it will sound like, but the technology already exists to make that sound signature variable – concept cars like the Brabus Smart High Voltage EV shown above can simulate the sound of everything from a buzzing bee to a good ol' American V8 with hidden speakers inside and outside of the vehicle, with the sound varying according to engine speed. If we absolutely have to be making a racket while we drive on all-electric power, we vote for sounding like George Jetson's daily commuter, but we're not exactly crazy about user-selectable EV 'ringtones,' lest one's daily commute become an auditory assalt of Star Wars Tie Fighters and clydesdales.