The addition of pedestrian warning systems on sometimes near-silent vehicles like the electric Nissan Leaf and hybrid Toyota Prius has been the subject of much debate, but with the U.S. House and Senate passing a measure that requires hybrids and plug-in vehicles to emit an audible sound to warn nearby pedestrians, like it or not, these noise-making systems will soon become standard on all electric-drive autos sold in the U.S.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it has taken the first steps toward proposing regulations to "protect unsuspecting pedestrians" from accidents involving near-silent vehicles. Says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
America's streets must be safe for everyone who uses them. As we improve the environment with cleaner cars, we must also consider how it affects those on bikes and on foot.
The NHTSA is beginning to lay out its proposed regulations for pedestrian warning systems. This may take some time, but eventually the agency will evaluate noise-making systems and publish its recommendations in the Federal Register. At that time, the public will have 30 days to submit comments on the NHTSA's proposed rules.

Ahead of that, feel free to cast either a Yea or Nay vote on noisemakers in general in our informal poll below.



[Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration]
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NHTSA Studying Environmental Impact of 'Quieter Cars'

Safety agency launches assessment of hybrid and electric vehicles to fulfill Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act

WASHINGTON – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that the agency is taking the first major step toward proposing regulations that will protect unsuspecting pedestrians and the visually-impaired from accidents involving hybrid and electric vehicles.

"America's streets must be safe for everyone who uses them," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "As we improve the environment with cleaner cars, we must also consider how it affects those on bikes and on foot."

Today's action, which is mandated by the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, will help NHTSA lay the groundwork for a proposed rulemaking to help pedestrians detect the presence of quieter vehicles. NHTSA will evaluate the merits of possible rulemakings, including requiring electric and hybrid carmakers to add sounds that alert the visually-impaired and other pedestrians when these vehicles are operating in certain low speed maneuvers.

"Even as we make giant leaps forward with hybrid and electric vehicles, we must remain laser focused on safety," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "With more and more quiet vehicles on the road, we have to consider their effect on pedestrians."

Once the notice is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 30 days to submit comments on this NHTSA action.


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  • 53 Comments
      kevsflanagan
      • 3 Years Ago
      While I understand as to why they wish to do this for blind people but there is a problem. Most cars these days are quiet as is. So much emphasis has been focused on making these cars quiet its now a legit problem? You have plastic covers over the engines, sound deadening along the firewall, heck you even have tires that are engineered to be quiet. Its not just hybrids or electric cars that are to quiet its most of the new cars. Should the government step in, hell no. Let the industry figure it out itself. This may if anything help make cars louder again. May let engine bays be engine bays instead of plastic covered piece's of tupperware. May bring about the people being able to hear their own engine while within the car and not question themselves on if they actually turned it on or not.
        RaceGeek
        • 3 Years Ago
        @kevsflanagan
        as many of our fellow gear head bikes have stated, loud pipes save lives. Why put in place a law that undermines the previous laws put in place for comfort, in exchange for safety. I have a radical new idea, why not just have laws concerning safely, and nothing else
          Zoom
          • 3 Years Ago
          @RaceGeek
          "why not just have laws concerning safely, and nothing else" this is for safety.
      David
      • 3 Years Ago
      My car rolling to a stop and my car cruising make about the same amount of sound compared to an electric car 50 ft away. It's only on acceleration my car make much more noise. Acceleration is only about 1/10th of my driving, probably alot less to most people. Everytime I nearly hit someone jay walking is because they are on their phones not paying attention and not looking both ways. If people used common sense we wouldn't be in this predicament.
        creamwobbly
        • 3 Years Ago
        @David
        Hey I can sneak up on cellphone zombies in my TDI with the AC compressor running. Right conclusion.
      v6sonoma
      • 3 Years Ago
      Going forward all bicycles will be required to install a baseball card in the rear spokes.
      TangoR34
      • 3 Years Ago
      Quite frankly, pedestrian can't even hear a normal car goes by. I once drove a Transit at 20-30mph then a pedestrain still cross the road right in front of me 20ft away. The only time they would notice a car would be the ones with big speakers, a fart can on their tail pipe or the supercars revving. So instead of putting more regulation on cars. Why not educate people and tell them to keep their eyes open, observe better and use the damn crossing?
        Zoom
        • 3 Years Ago
        @TangoR34
        Blind people rely on sound to help them hear oncoming cars. Even at crosswalks, they can't "observe" better as you write.
      BG
      • 3 Years Ago
      Cool, a loudspeaker. As soon as they install them, some hacker will figure out how to change the signal, "Get the crap out of my way!" They could do it in several languages.
      Kirby
      • 3 Years Ago
      Heck yeah,, I was literally running into the office one morning briefcase in hand when a Prius backed out in electro-mode . Didnt see it , definitley didnt HEAR it. Papers went flying all over the place. Im limping the rest of the way into the office from a severely bruised knee. Did manage to put a lil dent into the side panel.
        Agilis
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Kirby
        Something tells me if the Prius backed out in 'gas-mode' you and the Prius still would have collided.
      rü$╫
      • 3 Years Ago
      I cant wait to hack in and change the sounds...oh the hilarity of it. Dogs barking, Cats meowing, Semi trucks roaring, Ferrari modena's at full speed, Nokia ring tones.
      lucan888
      • 3 Years Ago
      Adding noise makers to quiet cars is silly. At parking lot speeds, it's not hard to sneak up on a pedestrian in non-electric cars and cars like the Lexus LS series are so quiet they can be left idling by accident. I think work on pedestrian detection and avoidance makes more sense (even if it is more expensive) and without government interference. Volvo among others has been working on this.
      medabot16
      • 3 Years Ago
      Am I the only one who sees this as redundant? a sound emitter to warn nearby pedestrians? THATS WHAT THE HORN IS FOR!
      mikemaj82
      • 3 Years Ago
      no, because one of the first things you're taught as you grow up is to look both ways before crossing the street.
        Alex740
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mikemaj82
        Unless you are blind and can't look both ways. Seems perfectly reasonable to me to require a sound to protect those who depend on sound to safely navigate the world around them.
          theoplex
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Alex740
          *deaf* (or def)
          theoplex
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Alex740
          these devices are not for the blind but for the def (and aloof) - as blind people typically have better hearing than most sighted people.
      Julio C. M. Oliveira
      • 3 Years Ago
      How about making these cars with a proper engine and start planting more trees instead of building fake-nature-saver cars ?
        David
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Julio C. M. Oliveira
        You missed the point entirely.
      Andre Neves
      • 3 Years Ago
      Just one more government-mandated piece of equipment that'll drive insurance/repair costs on a car, all because people can't look before crossing the road or be more aware of their surroundings. Why can't people just take responsibility for themselves for once.
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