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Regardless of whether or not there's an actual need for the pedestrian warning systems that continue to pop up on hybrid and electric vehicles, the U.S. Senate has voted (unanimously) to approve a measure that would make the noise-adding setup standard on all vehicles that can operate, even if just momentarily, without the burble that emanates from a gasoline or diesel engine. The bliss of rolling down the road in an electric drive vehicle in near silence is now one step closer to becoming an unachievable goal.

The measure, called the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 and backed by Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, aims to establish standards for alerting pedestrians of the possible danger of an approaching vehicle that moves in near silence. With the Senate voting in favor of the bill, it will now head off to the House of Representatives, which is expected to okay its passage as well.

[Source: Green Car Advisor]


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  • 47 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Amazing! The Senate can't seem to find it in their hearts to pass an extension on unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed (many of whom are unemployed as a result of poor decision making in the Senate), two weeks before Christmas, but they have no problems passing a near useless bill such as this...

      And yet, I bet that almost every one of those Senators would describe themselves as Christians.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Of course these people don't have to drive such a car. As the driver of the car you will always be 4 feet away from the sound source. You will have to listen to it for several minutes as you drive down city streets. In a parking garage it will be several times louder from the reflections than in open air.

      Has anybody considered my sanity? one of the reasons i want an electric car is to eliminate the sound of an ice. I have good hearing for my age and I wish to keep it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Word..

        If it is too loud, those systems will get snipped.. no question about it. I hope they find the right balance. Otherwise it is basically a waste of $ for the automaker and the buyer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      We're how many trillions of dollars in debt? Why is this even on their f-ing radar? I hate the fact that I am going to have to live through my country going bankrupt or even worse...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Write your representatives. It doesn't take long to put together a cogent email. Encourage them to vote no on this bill, and encourage their colleagues to do the same..

      https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

        • 4 Years Ago
        took me less than 5 minutes..thank you for encouraging me (and others) to share our views with our representatives.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you want a start, here's what I just sent off in Template form. Modify as you wish, it's oriented towards city living as I live in LA.


        Dear Representative _________,

        I am writing you in regards to S. 841: Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, a bill which recently passed in the Senate and will be heading to the House for a vote. If you are unfamiliar, this bill will require the installation of noise makers on all vehicles able to operate without the use of a gas engine for any length of time, i.e. Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Hybrids of any sort. The noise maker will operate automatically whenever the vehicle is at lower speeds, essentially when not on the highway when wind and tire noise will be sufficient.

        One of the best features of an EV/hybrid is the ability to move silently, a feature which would be eliminated completely by this bill. Consider a future where most cars are EVs, especially here in _____________ where city traffic abounds. Despite all the vehicles, the noise levels will have dropped significantly. The din of urban living will have been significantly reduced by the switch to EVs.
        That is, unless this bill is allowed to pass. In that case, the quieter, peaceful streets we could have had will be replaced by something out of the Jetsons. Cars all whooshing and whirring by as their noise makers all blend together in to a cacophony of noise pollution, equal at least to what we have now, if not worse.

        This issue was initiated by a group of blind individuals, concerned about the safety of the blind in a world of near silent vehicles. There are better solutions to this problem, impacting a small percentage of the population, than to require every quiet car on the road to carry a noise maker. The vehicles could simply have short range transmitters which would trigger a device carried by the vision-impaired to make some sort of alert noise. The result is the same, but the streets remain quiet. This is just one solution.

        I encourage you to consider the impact on the future of city living this bill will have and please vote no on S. 841: Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, and hopefully encourage your colleagues in the House to do the same.

        Thank you for your time.

        Sincerely,

        • 4 Years Ago
        Right Idea, but perhaps we should also point out that there are gasoline powered vehicles that are also quiet, and some EVs and hybrids do make noise, therefore any such legislation should ignore the type of propulsion and concentrate solely on the actual noise level of the vehicle in motion.

        If we must have some sort of warning sound for vehicles, it should take into account the amount of noise the vehicles already makes, adding sound only if additional sound is needed, and not requiring any sound when the vehicle isn't moving.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Apparently these people's parents skipped the lesson about looking both ways before you cross the street. Ridiculous waste of government time and money.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nero fiddled while Rome burned
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hate it yet agree. As a motorcyclist, bicyclist, and runner, I rely heavily on the sounds around me to get a 360 degree sense for my escape routes as well as approaching vehicles. Living in the Silicon Valley area, pretty much every other car is a hybrid so I either see or experience the surprise of a stealth vehicle on my shoulder every few days. It's amazing how much we rely on the sub-conscious audible cues from our environment to trigger automatic reactions - like looking left even when we have the right of way before proceeding.

      The road noise from the tires is simply not enough of a sound cue, but the typical 4 cylinder engine is plenty loud.

      Of course, given culling of the herd due to runners/bicyclist enjoying their exercise in total aural isolation granted by their MP3 players, maybe it's not really that necessary after all...
        • 4 Years Ago
        OK, just because you've been surprised by the approach of a hybrid, that makes it OK to pass a law requiring it to make noise?

        Were you hit by any of those cars?

        My problem with the law is there is no scientific evidence to support such a law. There really isn't any anecdotal evidence either. There is absolutely no proof or supporting statistics that say a quiet car is any more dangerous to pedestrians than a noisy car. Yet we are arbitrarily going to pass a law that guarantees our world will now have more noise.
        Great idea.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What really irks me is it only affects electric cars and hybrids but not ALL quiet cars. There are some very quiet luxury cars that should be affected by this rule too. It's classism to ignore those cars too. If this rule was scientific it should be based on a db cut-off and not just on technology.

      I find it ironic when there was a bi-partisan letter against the EPA sticker grading saying it favored precisely the two technologies currently targeted (when it was actually based on MPGe) and now they are willing to discriminate on technology.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree. I bicycle in fairly heavy suburban traffic almost daily. Newer non-hybrid cars are very difficult to hear coming.

        I can't always be looking to my sides checking for these cars, so i usually keep my distance as much as possible.
      • 4 Years Ago
      After being against the PWS sound initially, I became an advocate after almost being plowed down by a Nissan LEAF at the very first Drive Electric test-drive event.

      So now I'm glad the warning sound will be on my Nissan LEAF and I will not (as I first said I would) be disabling it. Furthermore I think the Volt's driver initiated warble sound is the wrong solution, and should be changed to a permanent system activate at low speeds.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Your example is a prime example who how ineffective VSP systems can be: the Nissan LEAF already has one!

        It's supposedly a very quite system that can't be noticed in the cabin, and I always doubted its effectiveness. If the VSP system is too quiet it might be pointless (only there to waste energy and generate more background noise). If it is loud enough, it will begin to affect the driving experience (noticeable in the cabin) and contribute to noise pollution.

        The idea that quiet cars will reduce accidents by heightening the public's sense of danger isn't a far fetched one. Here's an interesting article that chronicles how removing signs, sidewalks, which increased the public's sense of danger on the road, actually reduced accidents significantly.
        http://jalopnik.com/5533260/why-street-signs-make-traffic-more-dangerous
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree with you here, Michael. As a bicyclist, i am used to hearing the noise that regular tires create to help tip me off that a car is nearby. Electric cars and Hybrids are extremely difficult to hear - and Priuses have an extremely high pitched whine that is difficult to hear if you have lost some of your high-frequency hearing. ( i can hear them fine but my hearing is quite good )

        This is not a hybrid-specific problem. Many new cars have very quiet, low rolling resistance tires now. They are difficult to hear at low speeds. The engines are also extremely quiet due to modern catalytic convertor / exhaust designs.

        As long as this noise isn't excessively loud.. or annoying.. i'm all for it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        imagine if you had looked where you were walking. imagine if you would do that more and more as more cars are electric...
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Oh, I can't wait until there's 10 or 15 electric (or hybrid) cars all at an intersection, making different beeps and burbles and whines...

        No one will have any idea what the *@#$% is going on, just that it's suddenly incredibly noisy"

        That is funny but also a fair point.

        If they insist on having a sound maybe they should standardise the sound so all EVs sound the same.

        It would be mean that it would help the blind in that they would only need to know one sound just like the ticking noise at a pedestrian crossings.

        Making a standardised sound would also make it easier for an automaker to implement on their vehicle as the sound would have been already been developed and approved by authorities.

        (for the record I am also against the need for EV sound).
        • 4 Years Ago
        The law is unnecessary b/c insurance companies will require electric cars to have them. Hitting a car is one thing, hitting a pedestrians is slightly more expensive.

        In fact, the insurance companies are probably behind this law anyway. They've already control a bunch of laws like seat belt laws, insurance mandates, speed limits, and more.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Oh, I can't wait until there's 10 or 15 electric (or hybrid) cars all at an intersection, making different beeps and burbles and whines...

        No one will have any idea what the *@#$% is going on, just that it's suddenly incredibly noisy"
        _____________________

        Haha the thought of that made me laugh. It's like 10 people's cell phones going off all at once, each with their own stupid ring tone.

        But what about the animals walking around? They don't know how traffic works. Our dog is deaf and we are always worried when she gets out of the house. Or even kids.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Oh, I can't wait until there's 10 or 15 electric (or hybrid) cars all at an intersection, making different beeps and burbles and whines...

        No one will have any idea what the *@#$% is going on, just that it's suddenly incredibly noisy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So long as you aren't walking down the middle of the street, you should be fine, then.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Brace yourselves.... I agree with Dan.

        This is stupid and will just generate noise pollution. Watch where you are going. There is a better solution do deal with the tiny fraction of the population that is blind. The Volt's system is all that is needed.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, except that I don't have eyes in the back of my head.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ib Britain we required the first cars to be preceded by a man walking with a red flag. This sounds like the same logic and just as pointless; apart from an intentional impediment to electric cars. Next step? Fit speakers to cyclists?
      • 4 Years Ago
      "backed by Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts" which in turn is backed by lobbyist "Big Oil", I'm sure. I'm sure that they would have wanted a man running in front of the car waving a red flag too, if that could possibly go thru in senate.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Unbelievable. A unanimous vote based *not* on empirical data, but on unproven conjecture, isolated "almost" anecdotes, and fear. Obviously our lawmakers are ignorant of what Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman calls "the availability heuristic" when assessing risks:

      http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1564144,00.html
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